Canadiana in writing: a few fun facts about our Thanksgiving

At this time of year we Canucks celebrate a successful harvest and show our gratitude by gorging ourselves on a significant proportion of the produce we slaved all year to grow and store.

Our tasty pumpkin pie, complete with maple leaf decorations to establish its Canadian-ness. Those cranberries are a good idea, too. Yum.

Unlike the Americans we don’t wait until ten minutes before Christmas / Hanukkah / other winter celebrations to get this done when anywhere North American folks other than in southern states are beginning to need to put on their woolly knickers and cosy pyjamas (a.k.a. ‘pajamas‘ in North America).

We snotty Canucks prefer to do it at a time when the seasons are changing inspiringly, leaves on our trees are turning vivid gold, orange, bronze and other flaming colours, and the air has changed from the sultry, humid warmth of summer to the crisp invigoration of ‘the fall’ before it starts to freeze our private parts and make us scrape snow and ice off our cars in the mornings, as shown below.

Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday of October

American cynics will tell you that because Canada is so cold we need to have our celebration that early, otherwise the fresh produce we crow about will have been deep-frozen for weeks.

Canadian cynics will tell you that the Americans were so busy bragging about their wonderful harvests that they didn’t get around to being thankful until a short time before being reminded of it by the other winter festivals like Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.

One of our most precious water ways: Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta CA

The reality is that even by mid-October much of inhabited Canada is still glowing with autumnal beauty with, maybe, the odd few feet of snow in its north-western regions of Alberta.

But folks like two of my cousins love it out there and can’t wait for the snow to fall. Mind you, they’re both ski instructors.

In Nunavut, perhaps, it might be pretty snowy even on the second Monday of October. But Nunavut has its excuses: most of it is within the Arctic Circle.

What happens if you talk about turkey and pumpkin pie in the UK?

If you’re lucky, you get a blank stare.

If you’re unlucky you get wrinkled noses and comments about pumpkins being of use merely to carve out jack o’ lanterns and the innards are only fit for the compost heap.

pumpkin pie Canadian Thanksgiving

Pumpkins: only good for Jack O’Lanterns, or a valuable food source we shouldn’t throw away?

If you ask even a professional caterer to make you some pumpkin pies, many will say they’ve never heard of them. (NB: By now my good friend Caroline of Red Pepper Catering knows how to make them beautifully. The Go-To lady for US Thanksgiving next month if you are anywhere near Milton Keynes, UK!)


Fresh turkeys in the UK before Christmas? No worries, birdies. You’re mainly off the hook until December, earliest.

The chances in the UK of finding a fresh turkey in October (unless you happen to know of a turkey farm with poor security fences) is as likely as finding the contact lens you dropped in a landfill site.

Frozen birds might just be around, but mostly they’re brought out for US Thanksgiving late November. Those in the supermarket freezers in October are likely to have been there for some time.

TIP? Get a large chicken or two. If they’re fresh they’ll probably taste better than a turkey that’s been frozen for the last two years and counting.

Now, potatoes!

Brits have a gluttonous passion for roast potatoes with almost anything other than dessert.

Although most Canadians for whom I have cooked roast dinners don’t exactly turn their noses up at roasted potatoes (ergo, they wolf them down) the traditional North American take on potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas is mashed, with gravy.

If you folks in western Europe think mashed potatoes are bland and boring, hey – hold on there.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Mashed potato is boring? LOL! Y’aint seen nothing yet.

In Canada, certainly, we make mashed potatoes with garlic, herbs and other seasonings some of which will take your tonsils down with them, assuming you still have some. And with gravy this is a sheer gastronomic delight. The mere thought already has me drooling all over my keyboard: try this recipe here.

And the pièce de résistance: dessert

As we have seen above, it’s the pumpkin pie (see above.)

This is shared amicably across both Canada and the USA and although Mexico is part of North America too, I imagine they don’t find the rather bland but, er, intriguing flavours quite up to the standards of their typical offerings. In the meantime here is a good recipe for it interestingly by someone called Suzanne. (No relation.)

Now, how about Mexican Thanksgiving ideas?
Mexican Thanksgiving

What Mexicans might eat for a Thanksgiving celebration…

Some say that despite being North Americans Mexicans do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but according to this article many do – on the same day as the US Thanksgiving i.e. Thursday November 28th this year (2019), and here are some of things they eat in its honour.  Buen provecho.

How do you celebrate your harvest?

In the UK we have harvest festivals in churches and communities, but do you think we – like in North America – should have a dedicated national day for this?

Please share your views!

Have a great Thanksgiving wherever, and whoever, you are!