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The Story of Canadian Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and you may be wondering, why are Canadians allowed outside?  You may also be wondering why their Thanksgiving is so damned early and, for that matter, did Canadian pilgrims land somewhere a month earlier and do the exact same turkey dinner thing that American pilgrims did?  And if neither country existed yet, weren’t they the same English pilgrims?

Historically speaking, the real history of Canadian Thanksgiving is the dumbest thing you’ll ever read because Canadians changed the date of Thanksgiving literally a half dozen times.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that they decided on the second Monday of October.  Don’t you hate holidays that don’t have a real date?  But dates aside, what is Canadian Thanksgiving and how is it different than American Thanksgiving?

To start with, most Canadians don’t partake of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy or any of that.  No, as a result of the British-North America act which contained a stipulation for celebratory mendacity, Canadian Thanksgiving is not really a celebration and thanks for the harvest, it’s actually meant as a date to reflect and give thanks for Pierre Eliot Trudeau who, in the autumn of 1867, created the game of hockey at the University of Ottawa which, at the time, was Canada’s only English-speaking institution.

Now of course Canada has a strong affiliation with hockey even to this day and it’s a stereotypically Canadian thing but the reason for this is intimately tied to Canada’s independence and the reason why it’s a bilingual nation.  For some years before Canada was an official country there was intense animosity between the British and the French who resided in the territory.  There were many power plays and smaller skirmishes and the threat of war was constantly present.  However, with the advent of Trudeau’s hockey, and the ensuing remarkably cold winter an amazing event occurred which, to this day, reflects Canada’s position on diplomacy and is also responsible for Canada’s reputation as a polite c place – the Great Upper/Lower Canadian Game.

As winter raged on during 1867, the game of hockey took over the hearts and minds of all Canadians.  And it was during one particularly heated battle between French and Canadian soldiers over a river in Quebec that one particularly flustered sergeant, tired of the fighting in the terrible cold, suggested to his French counterpart that they simply play a game of hockey rather than continue to fight in the inhospitable weather.  The French soldier agreed, a game was arranged and the next day the English team defeated the French team 4 to 3.

A rematch was scheduled and the English won again and a third match saw the French take their first victory.  Games were played daily with the win going back and forth between the teams but word spread throughout the country and the spirit of brotherhood and sportsmanship was echoed across the nation.  The war ended, a peace was reached and steps were being made to make Canada a whole, diverse nation.

The next year the Canadian and French sergeants who had played that first game met and had another game.  They celebrated that night with a dinner which was, of course, exactly what you’d expect a mid-Winter Canadian feast to be – beer, beaver steaks, ham, walnuts and maple syrup.  So damn much maple syrup.

This was the traditional Canadian Thanksgiving for over 100 years until people decided beaver steaks were unacceptable eating due to beaver scarcity (it’s very rare to eat beaver in Canada and as a result many Canadians are very sad as beaver is quite delicious) and now it’s just a day when Canadians get drunk, sometimes on syrup, then watch hockey.

Now you know!

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