The differences between Canadian & US Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy food, friends, and family. As millions of Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but wonder the differences between the Canadian and American holidays?

I know that in the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November; here in Canada it’s celebrated on the second Monday in October. In both countries it’s a time to get together with family. Did you know that even though turkey is the most common meal on Canadian Thanksgiving, it isn’t mandatory grub? Plenty of families have ham, dim sum, chicken or whatever they feel like. And while Americans and Canadians both celebrate Thanksgiving, there are several other differences between the their traditions and practices.

I’m not saying our holiday is better— just that Americans should know as much about Canadian Thanksgiving as we know about theirs. To help understand Canadian and American celebrations, check out this infographic from Canadian Pharmacy Online.

Infographic: A tale of 2 Thanksgivings - Canadian vs American Thanksgiving Celebrations

A tale of 2 Thanksgivings: Canadian vs American Thanksgiving celebrations

These neighbouring countries both celebrate this uniquely North American holiday, but each have their own twist on the celebration.

European History & Traditions

For Canadians, the first Thanksgiving feast was in celebration of Martin Frobisher’s safe passage to Newfoundland in 1578 on his quest to find the Northwest Passage. The celebration is also called Jour de l’Action de grace in Canada’s other official language, French.

Americans, on the other hand, escaping persecution from England, Pilgrims and Puritans sought religious freedom in colonial America. The Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock and the harvest meal with the Wampanoags became the traditional Thanksgiving story.

First Nations/Native American traditions

First Nations’ crop feasts include sharing a harvest meal and ceremonial dancing.

Squanto of the Wampanoags taught the Europeans to fish and farm.

1st official Thanksgiving

  • Canada: April 15, 1872
  • United States: November, 1863

Official day it’s held today

  • Canada: 2nd Monday in October
  • United States: 4th Thursday in November

Traditional meals

Traditional meals include roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn and fall vegetables, but there are some regional differences.

Served on either Sunday or Monday in Canada, you can get stuffing with breadcrumbs and rice, wheat-based rolls, sweet potatoes pureed, and pumpkin pie with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

In America it’s stuffing with cornbread and oysters or rice, cornbread rolls or muffins, sweet potatoes baked with marshmallows on top, and pumpkin pie with custard.


  • 10% of Canadians take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday US deals.
  • 55% of Americans shop Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals spending over $12.3 billion in 2013.

Televised Sports

  • Thanksgiving Day Classic: 2 Canadian Football League games. 2013 viewership: 1,686,000.
  • Thanksgiving National Football League Game: 3 games. 2013 viewership: 60 million.

Other Traditions

Urban Canadians spend time in the countryside having woodland walks and hikes, taking family pictures in nature, or apple picking.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was watched on TV by over 50 million people in 2013; about 3.5 watched it live. All balloon handlers are Macy’s employees.

Did you know?

Cranberries were used by Native Americans as medicine and were known to prevent scurvy.

Magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She also wrote the the popular nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Only male turkeys called Toms gobble. Female turkeys called hens crackle.

Every year, a turkey presented to the US President gets pardoned. The turkeys then retire to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.

Be healthy

You can avoid indigestion by relaxing and eating slowly. Take time to rest after a meal before any physical exercise. Antacids are effective in relieving discomfort.

Eat smaller amounts of food: Risks for heart attack and gallbladder attack are increased after a big meal.

Designate a sober driver to make sure you arrive home safely.