I have a confession to make. After reading it your opinion of me may drastically change. Most likely you will shake your head, tsk tsk and wonder how a person can make it through to adulthood and not have an understanding of such elementary cultural celebrations.
My kindergartener son came home from school last week and was bubbling with excitement as he produce from his monogrammed red back pack various crafts and colourings featuring turkeys, cornucopias, and harmonious nuclear families sitting down to feast. As we sifted through the artwork (destined for the “artwork bin”) he babbled on about Thanksgiving with the same excitement most people have for Christmas (I realize that this is coming). When his younger brother came home from pre-school he was sporting a construction paper crown that vaguely resembled a turkey – if turkeys had googley eyes and neon yellow and purple feathers. Naturally this caused a ruckus. While my oldest was smitten with his own handiwork minutes earlier he desperately coveted the Turkey Crown that his brother was parading around. His brother was having no part in sharing and made this abundantly clear while announcing to us “My schurckey hat is just for yooking! No touching!”
Once order was restored with the help of bribery a good heart-to-heart discussion, my boys asked me if I knew what Thanksgiving was. I chuckled. Patted their innocent little heads.
“Of course I do, sweeties.”
Okay dear readers, if you know your Canadian history and you are still with me, this is when the headshaking and eyeball rolling will commence.
Obviously it is impossible to celebrate 30 Thanksgiving feasts and not know what it is all about. It’s when the pilgrims and the natives buried the hatchet and sat down for some turkey, cranberry sauce and corn. The natives shared their crop so that the land-stealers (err, I mean pilgrims) wouldn’t starve to death. It is the classic example of putting aside grudges and sharing with others.
Before I shared my cornucopia of knowledge (pun intended), I decided to do a quick cross-reference of my facts. I figure that the many hours I spent watching American television as a child may not constitute historical accuracy.
Well it is a good thing that I did! Apparently the Seavers and the Huxtables had led me astray. Blasted American sit-coms!
According to the people at Wikipedia, Canadian Thanksgiving was long celebrated by the First Nations people as a way to give thanks for the bountiful harvest well before any Erikkson, Johnson or Champlain erected a four-bedroom, two-car garage suburban home. However, when the European settlers did celebrate their first Thanksgiving it was to give thanks that explorer Martin Frobisher had successfully returned home after searching for the Northwest Passage.
It is important to note that the first European Thanksgiving on Canadian soil was to celebrate that Frobisher had returned home. He had not found the Northwest Passage but he didn’t die a lonely, icy death like Henry Hudson and John Franklin.
So you see Canadian readers, our first Thanksgiving wasn’t about thanking the First Nations people for sharing their bountiful crops with the settlers (and therefore staving off scurvy) or about celebrating a significant geographical find. In true Canadian form, in was about good manners: hosting an appropriate homecoming for a long-lost traveler.
As we sit down for our harvest feast and give thanks for bountiful crops we have access to, what are you particularly grateful for this year?
I have to admit that I am thankful that the “when in Rome” adage prevailed in Canada because “Happy Thanksgiving” has a much better ring to it than “Happy Welcome Home Martin Frobisher Day”. Besides which, teachers would have been stymied trying to come up with creative art projects.
P.S. Don’t feel too badly for Mr. Frobisher. He has an inlet named for him in the Arctic Ocean and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. Not too shabby for failing to find the Northwest Passage.
photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Frobisher