Thanksgiving in Canada.
the historical roots of this holiday are rather tangled. Like its U.S. counterpart, Canadian Thanksgiving was partly inspired by the tradition of European harvest festivals, brought to North America by early English settlers. One could also look at the holiday as an unlikely by-product of the American Revolution, as some defeated Loyalists took the traditions of American Thanksgiving with them when they fled northward. Some also like to trace the origins of Thanksgiving in this country to a 1578 celebration held by the English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in what is now northern Canada; this theory conveniently provides Canadian Thanksgiving with a starting point earlier than the 1621 Pilgrim celebration cited as the inspiration for American Thanksgiving, but it also necessarily downplays the fact that Frobisher and his companions were not celebrating a harvest - they were in the Arctic, after all - but rather their survival after a dangerous journey through treacherous and uncharted waters. Though Thanksgiving has been celebrated annually as a national holiday since 1879, the date of its celebration varied from year to year until 1957, when it was firmly set for the second Monday in October.
As in the United States, the experience of Thanksgiving in Canada is spread over a long weekend, with many traveling long distances to celebrate the holiday with family. I stayed local this year: the furthest I went over the weekend was to the suburb of Brampton, only twenty-five miles from downtown Toronto, and today I'm staying within the city limits. Our Jesuit community celebration of the holiday took place Friday evening, when we had a festive meal featuring fare typical of Thanksgiving celebrations on both sides of the border: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, and so on. I've spent most of today doing schoolwork: I have a paper due tomorrow, with three more assignments to turn in later in the week. I'm also taking time to enjoy Ontario's fall foliage, which can be partially glimpsed in the above photo, taken earlier this afternoon on the street outside my residence. On this holiday devoted particularly to expressions of gratitude, I'm most thankful for a successful start to the academic year (though it feels strange being a student again after teaching at a university for three years), for the fellowship and hospitality of the Canadian Jesuits who've welcomed me here, and for the gift of a vocation that makes these other gifts possible. I hope that readers who are celebrating this holiday can find some time today to thank God for the gifts that we receive throughout the year and throughout our lives. AMDG.