Everything You Need to Know About Canadian Thanksgiving

published Oct 4, 2023
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High angle view of decorated table on Thanksgiving day without people.
Credit: skynesher / Getty Images

If you are one of the many people who think of Thanksgiving as the quintessential American holiday, you aren’t alone. You may, however, be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving isn’t only celebrated in the United States. Our northern neighbors in Canada also gather together to practice gratitude and enjoy a special holiday meal. While Canadian Thanksgiving does bear some similarities to the American holiday, there are several traditions that are entirely unique to when and how Canadians celebrate.

When Is Canadian Thanksgiving?

Each year on the second Monday in October, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, and this year the holiday falls on Monday, October 9. While Canadian Thanksgiving occurs six weeks earlier than American Thanksgiving, it does happen to coincide with Indigenous Peoples Day, which is always observed on the same day. Many have long wondered why the holiday, historically linked to the fall harvest, is not celebrated in Canada and the United States on the same day, and the best guess is that Canada’s chillier climate led to an earlier harvest. 

Canadian Thanksgiving Traditions

Even though Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated earlier in the year than American Thanksgiving, the traditional Canadian Thanksgiving menu is very similar to the American one. A classic Canadian Thanksgiving dinner features a turkey as the star of the show, with side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and veggies. Pumpkin pie is the staple dessert on a Canadian Thanksgiving table, and seasonings like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg often create a bolder, more spiced flavor than the American variety. 

In the same way that Americans gather around the television after dinner to watch the football game, Canadians tune in for the Thanksgiving Day Classic. The double-header, an annual Canadian Football League tradition, is the must-watch Thanksgiving Day sporting event. Canada also hosts its own Thanksgiving Day parade, and though it’s not as massive as the American parade, the Thanksgiving spirit is still strong.

Despite the similarities to American Thanksgiving, Canadian Thanksgiving comes with its fair share of unique traditions. Dishes that you may find on a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner table include Jiggs dinner — a boiled meal of salted beef, cabbage, and turnips, and possibly other vegetables. You are also likely to encounter fish, game meats, and ham, which are less common in America.

For Americans, Thanksgiving is the one of the most important holidays of the year, and people travel far and wide to break bread with their families. In Canada, it’s a more casual holiday, and many Canadians even opt to have Thanksgiving dinner on the weekend, allowing for an extra day before returning to work and keeping the celebration more low-key. Some even choose to skip it in favor of outdoor activities to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather before winter comes.

This year, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving on November 23, six weeks after our neighbors in The Great White North. Whether you celebrate in Canada or in the United States, the important thing is to remember to give thanks and to enjoy your holiday however you choose to spend it.