All about Canadian culture, from people and language to food, drink, books, music, and film

Daily Life

From health care and education, to local eating and shopping, to festivals and things to do, get the scoop on life in Canada

Housing, Jobs, & Money

Finding a home, working, saving, and investing in Canada – here’s how


What you need to know to live in, work in, or immigrate to Canada. Citizenship information, too.


Travel ideas and tips for visiting, touring, and deciding where to live in Canada.

Home » Culture

Thanksgiving: What’s different in Canada?

Submitted by on November 25, 2010 – 1:35 pm6 Comments

In honor of American Thanksgiving Day, Canadian Living magazine has posted a quiz: How do Canadian Thanksgiving feasts differ from American Thanksgivings?

I’ve found that the meals themselves are fairly similar — turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a plentiful array of pies grace holiday tables on both sides of the border — but the Canadian Living article points out several small differences.

To me, the biggest difference is the relative importance of the holiday in the two countries: Thanksgiving is a much bigger deal south of the border. People certainly do have family dinners for Thanksgiving here in Canada, but there isn’t the mass travel frenzy you find in the States.

And I’m still adjusting to having our turkey feast in October!

How about you, fellow American expats? Do you miss American Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and let us know how you’re celebrating the US turkey day.

And check out our post from last Thanksgiving: American Thanksgiving: Do you miss it?

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin pie photo by calgaryreviews (flickr)


  • dan says:

    One major difference I’ve noted is that Americans tend to have their Thanksgiving meal on the Thursday evening, whereas Canadians have their meal anytime from Friday to Monday. I also find, in contras to what the magazine you cite suggests, that Canadian meals are nowhere near as monolithic as their American counterparts. Canadians tend to include local and ethnic specialities. My wife’s family always includes that delicious Prairie treat: the cabbage roll. I much prefer the Canadian celebration to the American one. While I miss seeing my family, I don’t miss the overshadowing of Thanksgiving by Christmas. Celebrating in October helps keep the holiday true to its roots as a harvest festival.

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      Thanks for the comments, Dan. That’s true that there doesn’t seem to be a set day or time for the Thanksgiving meal in Canada — just some time during the Thanksgiving Day weekend. And I’ve never had cabbage rolls at Thanksgiving, but they sound delicious!

  • kmgm says:

    As an American living in Canada, this is the one holiday that really saddens me that I am not able to celebrate in true U.S. style. It truly is my favorite holiday. It has nothing to do with the nearing of Christmas, or Black Friday shopping (which I have never experienced) – it was about the being with my family, see my friends, playing and watching football, the cool New England weather, and of course the food.

    I struggled last Thursday as I watched my husband go off to work and put my children on the bus, and spent the day alone. This year is was a little bit harder because, we had parent/teacher conferences that night. No thanksgiving dinner.

    I’m thinking next year, I will keep the kids home.

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      I feel the same way — Thanksgiving is the one holiday that makes me feel homesick for my family and friends in the U.S. Some years we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, some years we make a Thanksgiving dinner during the weekend of American Thanksgiving (although rarely on Thanksgiving Thursday, since as you point out, it’s a school and work day), and some lucky years we celebrate both!

      Perhaps you could start a new Thanksgiving tradition for your family in Canada. Maybe it’s a good time to volunteer in your community? Our post has links to resources for volunteers across Canada.

      Oh, and happy Thanksgiving!

  • Zhu says:

    Obviously, I can’t compare but I have the feeling that Thanksgiving is a much bigger deal in the U.S.A. Maybe because it is also a synonym of Black Friday and OMG-Christmas-is-coming?

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      I’m not sure why Thanksgiving is a much bigger deal in the U.S. than in Canada, but I do think it preceded the creation of the “Black Friday” shopping day. American schoolkids spend a lot of time learning about the Pilgrims who first settled the U.S. east coast and the legend of the first Thanksgiving, so the Thanksgiving dinner has a certain mythology surrounding it. It’s a non-religious holiday, so its celebration isn’t limited to particular religious groups, but that’s true in Canada as well.

      If anyone else has any thoughts about the relative importance of Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Canada, please chime in!