Thanksgiving: Reflections on the Harvest

October 11, 2019 | Marie Versteeg

Thanksgiving: Reflections on the Harvest

We’re all familiar with the origin story of Thanksgiving in North America, when neighbouring pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the harvest together. Here in Canada, we have a similar, though lesser known, historical Thanksgiving story. Ours features Samuel de Champlain and local Mi’kmaq.

Thanksgiving was celebrated somewhat haphazardly here in Canada, until the holiday was finally formalized in 1957. Parliament proclaimed the observance of the second Monday in October as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.

This proclamation was actually criticized by former Ontario premier and farmer, E.C. Drury. He said that “the farmers’ own holiday had been stolen by the towns” in order to gain a long weekend.

Today, it’s hard to sympathize with Premier Drury’s lament. Of all our public holidays, Thanksgiving seems to be the one that connects us most strongly to our nation’s agricultural roots. This weekend, many urban Ontarians will find their way to an apple orchard or pumpkin patch. There, they will get a taste of the close relationship to land and food that farm families experience every day.

The town didn’t steal Thanksgiving—farmers shared it.

Harvest celebrations have been a tradition across time and place throughout human history, though you won’t find it marked on the traditional Church calendar. Thanksgiving doesn’t belong to the biblical story, like Christmas or Easter. Technically, it’s more a civic holiday than a Christian holy day. It was established by politicians, not priests.  

Even so, the day has its roots in faithfulness. Many churches will hold Thanksgiving services this weekend. We will offer prayers of gratitude and sing songs of thanksgiving. We will bring canned beans and dry pasta for the food bank. Later, we will break bread with loved ones.

There’s something truly special about the holiday of Thanksgiving. By its very nature, it calls our fellow countrymen to gratitude for things sometimes overlooked—where our food comes from, and by whose hand we receive it. 

The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.