Why are we featuring a picture of fish in a blog about Thanksgiving?
Read on and you'll find out.
Almost every Canadian celebrates Thanksgiving each and every year, but a lot of us aren't quite sure where the tradition comes from.
It's quite simple actually.
Celebrating a good harvest is a tradition as old as human beings and is a practice found all over the world, most certainly including First Nations.
Another worldly tradition involving breaking bread is celebrating an event or accomplishment. The coronation of a King, the union of 2 nations, a new discovery, and navigating an ocean on a wooden boat were all good excuses for massive community meals and giving thanks.
These 2 traditions are what have evolved into the Thanksgiving we know and love today.
The first modern Thanksgiving was in 1578 Nunavut by Sir Martin Frobisher and his European crew. The meal was modest and the purpose was to give thanks for their safe passage through the Eastern Arctic. But this was just a small meal and didn't involve the First Nations people, so it is contested as the actual "first Thanksgiving". Some argue that it was just a snack and a prayer.
The occasion that can be considered the first official Canadian Thanksgiving was actually a festival designed to stave off scurvy. Colonials needed to eat and drink enough to not get sick. Samuel De Champlain hosted the "Order of Good Cheer" event in November of 1606 - notably 15 years before the first American Thanksgiving in 1621 - which featured a proper feast, boisterous firing of muskets, and North America's first European play; Théâtre de Neptune.
It was a noble effort, but the one-time meal probably wouldn't have yielded long term results. Scurvy and malnutrition was more likely avoided thanks to the Mi'kmaq - who attended the Order of Good Cheer celebration - teaching the settlers how to icefish.
The history is spotty over the next 200 years. There are cases of isolated regional "Thanksgivings" on both sides of the border in various cities until the 1860's when Canadian leaders made concerted efforts to unify the increasingly Protestant country which largely involved farm, family, and religion.
Once it became an official annual National holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was observed sporadically, usually following one event or another.
- The end of the Seven Years War
- The end of the War of 1812
- The end of the Lower Canada Rebellion
- King Edward VII recovering from an a near fatal illness
- King Edward VII's coronation
- Queen Victoria's Diamond and Golden jubilees
- The end of World War I
The end of WWI eventually evolved from Armistice Day (which was coupled with Thanksgiving until 1957) into Remembrance day, and permanently shifted Thanksgiving to the second Monday of October. By this time the iconic turkey, squash, and pumpkin had become the Thanksgiving go-to meal thanks to some popular American publications.
Why are we writing about the origins of Thanksgiving?
Well, for 2 good reasons.
1. We're proud Canadians and want to do our part to make sure that our county's traditions are understood, appreciated, and maintained.
2. As Canadians a significant contribution to our harvest is fish, and we'll take any opportunity that we can to celebrate fishing.
If you're paying attention, you'll have noticed
- The first hint of Canadian Thanksgiving was brought upon by a boat trip.
- The purpose for the first modern version of Canadian Thanksgiving was reinforced by fishing.
- The first European play, making its debut during Thanksgiving, was boating themed.
Thanksgiving has already come and gone this year, but the next time you're sitting around the cornucopia with your family take a moment. Yes, give thanks to what enriches your life but, before that, consider how difficult it was for our predecessors who had to slave in fields from sunrise to sunset or risk their lives in the wild hunting for food. Think about how savage winters were, and how often people would simply run out of food with no way of getting more.
A good or bad harvest literally meant the difference between life and death and was a very significant reason to celebrate. Without the struggles of our Canadian ancestors we wouldn't have the luxury of driving to the grocery store to fill our refrigerators today.
This is something we should always be thankful for.
Yours In Boating,