Oct 8 | Posted by Barry Cohen

With September behind us, Canadians embrace the fall season with vigour and enthusiasm.  Autumn in Ontario is a glorious time with Mother Nature providing a spectacular visual show. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, our thoughts turn toward cozy fireplaces and indoor pursuits as we put away the golf clubs, close the cottage, winterize the boat and cut the lawn for the last time.  

The autumn is also a great time to reflect on how very fortunate we are to live in a country that is safe and free with unlimited possibilities and opportunities.  On a smaller and more personal scale life in the GTA is among the most envied on the planet and it is important that we don’t take that for granted.

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and officially marks the last long weekend of the year until Christmas.  The actual origins of our modern day Thanksgiving celebrations are somewhat uncertain, but many historians are convinced that the first Canadian Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher.  Frobisher is credited as the first explorer seeking a northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean.  It is believed that he held a celebration of thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms, sub zero temperatures and icebergs and not for the harvest as we do nowadays. The celebration is said to have taken place in Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island (now Nunavut).

The more popular belief about the origins of Thanksgiving are attributed to Canada’s early settlers arriving from all over Europe and in particular the British Isles who gave thanks for the bountiful harvest at the end of the farming season.  Most of the American aspects of Thanksgiving, like turkey, weren’t incorporated until the United Empire Loyalists fled the US during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.

Today, Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday everywhere in Canada with the exception of the Atlantic Provinces.  A few other countries around the world observe similar celebrations including the US, Germany, Japan, Grenada, Liberia, The Netherlands and a tiny island in the remote Pacific between Australia and New Zealand called Norfolk Island.

In the US Thanksgiving is celebrated in November and the reason for the Canadian holiday being sooner is likely because of the earlier onset of winter resulting in the harvest season ending a month before.  Thanksgiving in Canada did not have a fixed date until the late 19th century.  The first official celebration occurred on April 15, 1872 when the nation was celebrating the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.  Until that time the holiday was celebrated on November 6, however, when World War 1 ended and Armistice Day fell during the same week, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed in 1957 that Thanksgiving be observed on the second Monday of October.  

However you celebrate on the 12th, I hope you take a few moments to be thankful for family, friends and the incredible country and city you are fortunate enough to live in.

Happy Thanksgiving.