Canadian Thanksgiving Celebrations

Canadian Thanksgiving is a time of celebration.   Observed on the 2nd Monday of October and affectionately known as ‘Turkey Day’, Thanksgiving in Canada is closely linked with European harvest festivals.

People gather for excursions, family events, and relaxation.

In the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, Thanksgiving weekend means Oktoberfest celebrated with Germanic traditions of beer, food, dancing and singing.

The large Hindu community in Ontario celebrates Diwali at this time of year.  Diwali, a celebration of light involving spiritual and cultural practices, happens on Thanksgiving weekend this year.

This is also the last long weekend before winter begins. Most people take advantage of the extra time to plan something special.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Whatever traditions a family observes, there are some typical ways people spend this holiday weekend.

Outdoor excursions

Regardless of weather, most people try to spend some time outdoors enjoying the beauty of autumn.

Thanksgiving Beauty -- photo courtesy of Matthew Ingram
Thanksgiving Beauty — photo courtesy of Matthew Ingram

Trips to the countryside include activities such as picking apples, buying pumpkins, and admiring the changing colours of nature.

Many families plan specific activities to enjoy nature.  It might be a walk through a nearby park or a daylong hike. It might be an afternoon of raking leaves or putting garden furniture away before bad weather arrives.

Other families spend the weekend relaxing at their cottages.  Weather permitting, there is time to enjoy the night sky without mosquitos.   A campfire keeps fingers warm and provides hot coals for roasting marshmallows.

Some people use the long weekend to ‘close’ the cottage for the winter.  This involves hard work including draining water pipes, storing boats, and clearing the cupboards of leftover summer foods.


The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is a busy travel time. On both Thursday and Friday afternoons before the long weekend, cars jam all roads.  People rush to away from the city to see family, to get to a cottage, or to attend a festival. Planes, trains and buses run at capacity.

Young families can often be found travelling to athletic tournaments as this is the time of year for soccer, hockey  and track tournaments.

Many travel to celebrate this holiday with family members.  Generations usually celebrate with a traditional feast.  This provides an opportunity for reunions and for giving thanks for another year of bounty.


Typically, the Canadian Thanksgiving meal involves turkey with stuffing and gravy along with ham and various sauces. Side dishes include mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, turnip, squash, carrots, corn and various salads. Desserts include pumpkin pie with whipped cream and apple pie with cheese and ice cream.
With immigration, food traditions at a Canadian Thanksgiving meal are changing.  It’s not uncommon for the meal to include foods such as cabbage rolls, perogies, rotis, curries, halwas and dates as new ethnic groups add their favourite dishes.
Items that use the colours of harvest as themes adorn tables. Gourds, acorns, coloured leaves, chrysanthemums, decorative grasses, and pumpkins decorate both indoor and outdoor areas with brilliant golds, reds, oranges, and browns.

How our family will celebrate

This year, our son and daughter-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving at their home. It promises to be a HUGE family event as our daughter-in-law’s family includes several siblings, their partners and other extended family.  There will be lots of noise and lots of levity.

The meeting of two family cultures gives opportunity to adopt new traditions. I look forward to a meal that will blend the best dishes from both families. My contribution will include pumpkin and apple pies plus home-made cranberry sauce.

We will give thanks for the blessings of the year — for living in safety in Canada; for good relationships; for health; and for the abundant food.

I wish all of my readers in Canada a Happy Thanksgiving.  May you enjoy the love of family, the warmth of friends, and the blessings offered to all of us.

I welcome feedback and will reply to your comments!

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