Perhaps, I have mentioned this a time or two but, for those who are new here, I’m a “border kid”, born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The only thing separating us from Niagara Falls, New York was a river and a few bridges. There was a time when going from one Niagara to the other wasn’t given a second thought. It was equal to walking around the corner to a friend’s house. Things change and now you had better be ready to invest a a fairly hefty piece of time just waiting in line to cross that bridge never mind contemplating what might happen when it is “your turn” to face the border agents. As I said, that is now.
Then, things were different. We came and went freely. Parents were never concerned if their children walked across to another country just to hang out downtown. Can you imagine? I said “ANOTHER COUNTRY”! It never felt like that. We all had friends on both sides. We all had relatives on both sides. We studied the same things in school. OK, we were led to believe we studied the same things in school. The reality was quite different. Once a Canadian child was of certain age you started to ask questions. Most families took turns hosting Holiday dinners. If we spent Christmas at Aunt Maude’s in Buffalo then we would spend Easter at our home in Niagara Falls. The Fourth of July was always spent in the US. Dominion Day (now Canada Day) was always spent in Canada. One Holiday was always a great source of confusion, Thanksgiving Day.
We celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Our American friends celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. Granted it made the who ate where part easy to figure out but we had questions. We all learned about Thanksgiving in school. You know, the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, Natives, corn, turkey dinner…wait a minute.
Right about now is when you start to realize things may not be the same in the classroom on both sides of the border. As a Canadian child I was taught a great deal of American history. In fact, I would venture to say that the influence of American History was quite heavy in my classroom. With family on both sides of the border it is easy to compare notes and find that Americans know very little about Canadian History. Canadian TV Producers have actually made extremely amusing programming asking Americans to answer questions about Canada. Funny? Yes, but, also a little sad, don’t you think?
The History section on The Weather Network explains it the simplest:
The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been futilely attempting to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did, however, establish a settlement in Canada. In the year 1578, Frobisher held a formal ceremony in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This event is widely considered to be the first Canadian Thanksgiving, and the first official Thanksgiving to occur in North America.
The reality is that Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving 43 years before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth. There wasn’t even turkey served. The first Thanksgiving meal was salt beef, crackers and mushy peas. It was all they had. I will give thanks that the Americans changed the menu, although I can think of some turkeys who wouldn’t.
Last year folks on both sides of the border celebrated and continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the “War of 1812“. Yes, we have spent a couple of years celebrating us becoming not American. I am not sure why the Americans were celebrating. Oh, that’s right, they still think they won that one (according to my much beloved American brother-in-law). Here Laura Secord is considered a hero. In the US…not so much. There are a lot of discrepancies when it comes to Canadian/American history most recently would be Ben Affleck’s depiction of what happened during the Iran Hostage Crisis. I prefer President Reagan’s account.
We will probably always have these inconsistencies in our history together. We will probably always disagree on how to spell color/colour. We will bang our heads together trying to figure out how many kilometers per hour is equal to how many miles per hour so we don’t get a speeding ticket in either country.
I am celebrating my Canadian Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October but on the fourth Thursday in November I will also give thanks for all my American friends and family.