| Amanda Butler
Bao Tram: Hello, Amanda. Thanks for joining us today.
Amanda: Thank you for having me on the show today. I’m really happy to share a little bit about Canadian Thanksgiving with you. Thanksgiving is a holiday that has been popularized in movies and TV shows so I know that many people are curious about why and how we celebrate it. A feast always brings people together, whether it’s in Canada or Vietnam.
Bao Tram: Could you please tell us how Canadian Thanksgiving Day began?
Amanda: Thanksgiving holiday tradition in Canada dates back to when the English explorer, Martin Frobisher, came upon the land we now know as Canada while searching for a Northern passage to the Orient (Asia). After losing one of his ships along the way, he apparently had a big celebration to give thanks for this safe passage when he landed in Nunavut (Canadian arctic) in 1578. Frobisher celebrated with salt beef and peas. South of the border in the USA, it would be another 43 years before the Pilgrims sat down to celebrate their first Thanksgiving meal.
Bao Tram: Could you tell us how Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada, your home country?
Amanda: Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October (October 12 this year) and is an official statutory holiday, meaning we get the day off work with pay, except in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories and since it’s such a huge country some of our holidays and celebrations differ like this.
In the regions where Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated, most government offices will be closed and so will many local amenities. Public transport is likely to run on a holiday or Sunday schedule. Banks will be closed along with the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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.
Thanksgiving pumpkin pie (Photo: Getty Image)
Bao Tram: Why do Canadian people celebrate Thanksgiving in October?
Amanda: One reason is that the harvest season starts earlier in Canada than it does in the US, because Canada is farther north and the harvest comes earlier, so we celebrate it earlier. Giving thanks for a harvest before winter was also common with indigenous and native Americans at this time of year long before white settlers began doing it, too. It also marks the beginning of fall for us, when the leaves start changing color and the air gets cooler.
Bao Tram: How is Canada's Thanksgiving different from the US version?
Amanda: It's easy to assume that Canada, being younger than the US, copied the tradition from the US, but the earliest recorded Thanksgiving celebration happened in Canada first. This was years ahead of the first recorded US feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans at Plymouth in 1621.
Unlike American Thanksgiving, Canada’s national Thanksgiving took decades to become an annual holiday. In 1957, Canada’s parliament set the date as the second Monday in October. By then, the United States was celebrating their Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.
Amanda Butler is from Ontario, Canada. Her hometown is Burlington but she spent a lot of time living in Toronto before moving to Vietnam.
She has been teaching English for nearly 10 years around the world.
She has been living and teaching in the coastal city of Hai Phong, Vietnam for 3 years and now call it her second home as she is starting a family here.
What do people do to celebrate Thanksgiving?
Amanda: Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated by gathering with loved ones and preparing a Thanksgiving Day meal, which can take 1 or 2 days to prepare;
Foods traditionally served at Thanksgiving include roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various autumn vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes but also Brussels sprouts), and pumpkin pie.
There are often regional variations on the meal. For instance, Newfoundlanders like to 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.
Most importantly, we “give thanks” for the good food and for our family and friends. In my family we often take turns saying what we are most thankful for from the past year as we gather around the dinner table.
Turkey dinner on Canadian Thanksgiving Day (Photo: Getty Image)
Bao Tram: What is the biggest highlight of the event?
Amanda: The highlight of Thanksgiving is definitely the turkey and the turkey is usually chosen weeks and sometimes months in advance of Thanksgiving. Depending on the size of the family, you can get a big or small turkey, and it is cooked in the oven for a really long time.
So when guests arrive for dinner, they can already have a smell of turkey filling their noses to get them hungry. Then carving the turkey is a big moment before we sit down to enjoy the meal. Usually the man of the house or a special person is chosen to carve or cut up the turkey for everyone.
The best part about Thanksgiving for me is the week after, because we can enjoy the leftovers. There’s usually a lot of food left over and so we can eat turkey sandwiches or turkey soup and continue to enjoy the good food for a little while after the big feast.
Bao Tram: Thank you so much, Amanda, for joining us today and sharing with us some facts about Canadian Thanksgiving. Take care. We wish you all the best in life and work.
Amanda: Thank you for having me on the show today. I really enjoyed talking about Thanksgiving and if you haven't tried turkey before, hopefully you’ll have a chance to try it in the future. It’s really delicious.