Episode 15 – Canadian Thanksgiving

October 9, 2018


About the Episode

Thanksgiving: a time of year where we get together with friends and family, have a great meal, and give thanks for what we have.  For such a simple holiday, it sure has a complicated history.

In this episode Nick, Robin, and Keely notice the history, politics, and food of Thanksgiving.  What is the origin of Thanksgiving in Canada?  Why would it be traditional to eat canned meats and mushy peas on this holiday?  How did it become a national holiday?  How does the god Neptune factor into the ‘first’ Thanksgiving? And, what is the reason we should all give thanks to Nova Scotia on Thanksgiving?

Join the Know History team as we notice the history of Canadian Thanksgiving.


  1. Try some of Keely, Robin, and Nick’s favorite Thanksgiving foods:
  2. If you heard Robin cheer when Black Creek Pioneer Village was mentioned, find out why by visiting their website. 
  3. You can read many of Sarah Josepha Hale’s writings including Godey’s Lady’s Book, on Project Gutenberg. Her book Northwood: a Tale of New England can be found here.


Fun Facts

  1. The official reason given for that first post-Confederation Thanksgiving was for the restoration of health to H.R.H. (King Edward VII) the Prince of Wales, after a long illness. This Thanksgiving took place on 5 April 1872.
  2. In 1856, the Province of Canada held a Thanksgiving celebration to revel in the news that peace with Russia had been restored after the Crimean War.


Austen, Ian, and Dan Levin. “Favourite Thanksgiving Recipes From Across Canada.” The New York Times. October 7th, 2016. Accessed September 19th, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/world/canada/favorite-thanksgiving-recipes-from-across-canada.html

Baker, Peggy M. “The Godmother of Thanksgiving: The Story of Sarah Josepha Hale.”  Pilgrim Society and Pilgrim Hall Museum, 2007. Accessed September 18, 2018. http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Godmother_of_Thanksgiving.pdf

Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson, Andrew McIntosh, and David Mills. The Canadian Encyclopedia. November 3, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day.

Brown, Audra. “History Lesson: Canadian Thanksgiving.” Toronto City News. Video. October 6, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2017/10/06/history-lesson-canadian-thanksgiving/.

Canadian Heritage. Proclamation and Observance of General Thanksgiving Days and reasons therefore. https://web.archive.org/web/20130628210214/http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/jfa-ha/graces-eng.cfm

Rice, Waubgeshig. “Indigenous People in Ottawa want to reclaim Thanksgiving Day, Columbus Day” CBC. October 12, 2015. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/indigenous-people-in-ottawa-want-to-reclaim-thanksgiving-day-columbus-day-1.3264648

Sismondo, Christine. “The odd, complicated history of Canadian Thanksgiving.” MacLeans. October 5, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2018. https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/the-odd-complicated-history-of-canadian-thanksgiving/

Stevens, Peter. “The religious and nationalist origins of Canadian Thanksgiving.” Toronto Star, October 9, 2017. Accessed September 19, 2018. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/09/the-religious-and-nationalist-origins-of-canadian-thanksgiving.html.

“Thanksgiving has roots, complicated history in indigenous communities, prof says.” CBC. October 7, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/indigenous-thanksgiving-history-1.4345348.


Producers: Robin Mullins and Emily Cuggy

Hosts: Robin Mullins, Nick Bridges, and Keely McCavitt

Researchers: Leanne Gaudet, Nick Johnston, and Beth Sollis

Audio Editing: Anna Kuntz and Robin Mullins

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit: Turkey, London Zoo. William Redver Stark / Library and Archives Canada / e008311124.