“You might want to get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars you’re in Texas”, goes the saying. I don’t disagree with its authors, whoever they are, but I’m pretty thankful I’m in Canada, too. Of course, I had yet to experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving, so I couldn’t yet fully comment on all-things Canadian. I was working away recently, when an IM popped up from my friend Chris (also known as my Official Canadian Tour Guide*). “What are you doing on Monday?”, he asked. I thought for a second and then replied, “Um, filing my nails and doing laundry. You know, all the exciting things I normally do on a holiday Monday”. (You know you are so jealous.) “Nope”, he said, “you’re coming to our house for Thanksgiving”. I practically danced out of my chair. I was so psyched! I couldn’t wait to compare a real Canadian Thanksgiving to the large, austral, Southern Thanksgivings to which I was accustomed. Would we have back bacon casserole? Maple syrup sugar pie? Poutine-stuffed turkey? Do they even have turkey at Canadian Thanksgiving? These are the things to which I was seeking answers. Answers which I would be happily gleaning via my eyes and, more importantly, my stomach.
While it may seem like Canadian Thanksgiving is simply an attempt to add to an already-bloated list of statutory holidays, in reality, Canada celebrated their “day of thanks” well before the Americans did — 43 years before, to be exact. Surely it doesn’t matter who celebrated first and really, who could have known? I mean, did the French and the Brits in Canada send down a fax to the pilgrims in America saying “hey, we got here about 40 years ago and when we did, we had this big day of thanks complete with cornucopias, turkeys, parades and pumpkin pie!”? Doubtful. As I understand it, the only real difference between the American holiday and the Canadian holiday (incidentally celebrated in October**) is that for which each respective country is giving thanks: Americans celebrating the arrival of the pilgrims to the new land (and subsequent plundering of it), with Canadians giving thanks for a successful harvest. And no, not an ice harvest.
Thanksgiving Day turned out to be blustery and cool this year, and I listened to my boyfriend, Ira Glass, on This American Life, as I prepared my contribution to the day — sweet potato casserole, complete with marshmellows on top. Delish! By the time I arrived for dinner, things were in full swing. The house smelled of roasted turkey (I guess they have turkey at Canadian Thanksgiving, after all), brussels sprouts, cinnamon, and, most importantly, fresh pumpkin martinis. Yes, please! The party was small, with eight adults and two adorable children, but perfect, nonetheless. You know how holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas bring out what I like to call the “extended family crazies”? Like crazy Uncle Al who wants to show you the wart that he removed himeslf or loopy Aunt Edna whose wig looks like it may actually still be alive? Well, there was none of that at Chris’s — just good conversation***, amazingly delicious food, and lots and lots of thanks. We had Canadian-raised turkey with stuffing, roasted carrots, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole (natch), salad, and fresh Ontario beets. Dessert was fresh pumpkin pie, apple pie, and a homemade Austrian dessert into which I could have put my face. Combined, it was all like a big party in my mouth.
After the “adults” left, Chris, his wife, and I cracked open a few bottles of wine, continued the intelligent chatter and exhaustedly wrapped up what was, in my opinion, the perfect Canadian Thanksgiving. The best part, though? I finally broke away from having to sit at the “kids’ table”. 🙂
As years go, this has been a more challenging one for me. Still, I have so much gratitude for what I have and so little concern for what I don’t, that I don’t feel like I have any right to waste any time wallowing. You’ll still find me on my knees thanking my lucky stars I’m from Texas, but, while I’m down there, I’m also thanking the universe that I got to experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving.
* Chris is a walking encyclopedia of all-things Canadian. His brain is basically like Frommers Canada, so luckily, I’ve never actually had to buy it.
** It’s celebrated in October because that’s when the seasonal harvest is, yo.
*** Talk briefly turned, of course, to the topic that has become the bane of my existence as an American in Canada — Universal Healthcare. Can someone please end this saga already, so I can go on about my life?! 😉