This time last year, the New York Times—and its many readers—discovered a quaint little tradition that many Americans had never heard of: Canadian Thanksgiving.
Some of the confusion over our version of the holiday stems from the fact that we celebrate it six weeks earlier than they do—and on their Columbus Day holiday, to boot. Most of it, however, is surely owing to the fact that Americans feel ownership over this holiday, believing it grew, organically, out of a specific historical event that took place on “American” soil. After all, the Plymouth Rock story, which frames a congenial harvest feast shared by Wampanoag peoples and the Pilgrim settlers in November 1621 as America’s first Thanksgiving, is taught early and often.
In response, on occasion, some defensive writers and apologists have countered the implication that we are pale imitators of the U.S. or mere holiday rip-off artists, and people have pointed to Canadian antecedents to demonstrate our authentic connection. Some cite a celebratory meal held by Martin Frobisher upon his arrival in 1578, but since that involved tinned beef and mushy peas, that feels like a stretch. More germane than this story is the meaty celebration hosted by Samuel de Champlain in Port-Royal on Nov. 14, 1606, which saw Europeans and Indigenous peoples breaking bread together. It was organized as part of the “Order of Good Cheer” dinner party series that was invented to make sure the colonists ate and drank enough to stave off scurvy and malnutrition.