2nd Sunday in October - Canadian Thanksgiving Day

Written by Anne Newman 17th October 2019

Thanksgiving Day - Jour de l’action de grâce in French Canadian – is an official statutory holiday in Canada that is celebrated on the second Monday in the month of October.

In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where the day isn't a holiday, employers aren't required to pay their employees for the day off so families often celebrate their Thanksgiving on the Sunday before instead.

On this day, millions of Canadians celebrate the bountiful harvest and good fortune that has blessed the country and its citizens.

In 2019 the holiday falls on a Monday, that doesn’t necessarily mean that is when everyone celebrates the holiday. Since it is a part of a large weekend, many people choose to celebrate it either the Saturday or Sunday before the actual holiday.

Thanksgiving Meal

Canadians enjoy Thanksgiving and see it as a time to visit with family and friends and get together for the Thanksgiving Day meal, which usually includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and many other dishes.

There are often regional variations on the meal.

For instance, Newfoundlanders might hark back to Frobisher's original feast and serve Jiggs' dinner, a boiled meat dish often paired with a split-pea pudding.

Instead of pumpkin pie, Ontarians often serve butter tarts, bite-sized pastry shells stuffed with a syrupy filling.

Festival Origins

Canadian Thanksgiving can be traced all the way back to 1578.

This is when voyager Martin Frobisher set out from England in search of the Northwest Passage. However, his trip was perilous. Not only did he lose one of his ships – he took three on the journey to set up a settlement at Frobisher Bay – but he also lost much of the building material he took with him. Robert Wolfall – an Anglican priest who was appointed to be chaplain to the expedition by the 'Majesties Councell' – gave a sermon encouraging everyone associated with the expedition to be thankful to God.

Later, during the early seventeenth century, explorer Samuel de Champlain and some French settlers arrived in Canada and began to host feasts of thanks that included local, indigenous plants and animals.

In 1879, Canadian Thanksgiving became an official holiday that was celebrated on November 6th. However, this was changed in 1957 by the Canadian Parliament to be the second Monday in October to prevent it from falling in the same week as Remembrance Day.

Apart from taking place years before it's American counterpart, Canadian thanksgiving also takes place over a month earlier. One reason is that the harvest season starts earlier in the more northerly Canada than it does in the US.

For many Canadians, a long walk in the outdoors is an annual Thanksgiving tradition. Because Thanksgiving is in mid-October, it’s the perfect time of year for walking and leaf-peeping.

Traditional Thanksgiving Decorations

A Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia is a wonderful symbol of abundance and bounty. Pumpkins, Squash, Corn, and Gourds are seasonal vegetables that are a traditional Thanksgiving decoration because they are harvested at this time of year.


Anne is sharing a series of events throughout the year - you can find them listed by clicking to the link Feast Days & Festivals