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Lifestyle, Health, Nutrition & Inspiration from Luvo

Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving—What’s the Difference?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching—in Canada anyway. That’s right, for those north of the border, Thanksgiving is celebrated this Monday. Americans are often surprised to hear that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different date. It raises so many questions, so we put together this post to highlight the similarities and differences.

Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving—What’s the Difference?

When is Thanksgiving celebrated in each country?

In Canada, since 1957, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. Most people throughout the country get the day off, but in Canada it’s not a national holiday. In a few provinces—Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia—giving the day off is “optional.” In the U.S., Thanksgiving is a national holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

Why is the Canadian one so much earlier?

Conventional wisdom says that the Canadian holiday is earlier because the country is colder, so the harvest, which is being celebrated, happens sooner. In reality, it’s not so clear. Canada’s current October Thanksgiving date was only established in 1957. Before that it bounced around the calendar. It was in November for a while, on the same day as Armistice Day. Though the harvest has always been a central focus, in the past, a unique theme was presented to thanks for each year, often involving the health and well-being of the British monarchy.

The date for U.S. Thanksgiving also moved around in the past. Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863, and set the date. In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt moved it up a week supposedly to encourage retail sales during the depression, but in 1941 it was moved back to the fourth Thursday in November.

When did the tradition start?

The Canadian Encyclopedia notes that the first Thanksgiving feast in Canada celebrated by Europeans took place in 1578—though indigenous people in Canada have a history of celebrating the fall harvest that goes back many centuries. It’s worth noting that the European’s event in Canada predates the oft-cited American feast of 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, where early U.S. settlers celebrated their bountiful harvest.

What do people eat in each country?

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is unique to each family, of course, but the staple elements are quite similar. Turkey is common, so is stuffing, potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. Need some new ideas? Here are six recipes you can make ahead of time—no matter where you live.

What other differences are there?

Because it’s only a three-day weekend in Canada, as opposed to the U.S.’s four-day holiday, fewer people tend to travel to celebrate Thanksgiving north of the border—though it’s still a pretty big deal. In the U.S., it’s among the busiest travel events every year. Almost 50 million Americans hit the road—or the sky—to go home or away for Thanksgiving. Also, in the U.S., it’s the day before Black Friday, typically a pretty epic day for retailers. This has become part of the weekend tradition for many.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to unlock a coupon to use on your next Luvo purchase and download Luvo’s 7-day meal and fitness plan for more nutrition tips and recipes.

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