Friday, 7 October 2016

Canadian Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Canadian Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving Day in Canada, celebrated on the second Monday of October, falls this year on October 10. 

Historically this holiday had its roots in religious cultural traditions as prayers of thanks and their corresponding ceremonies are the norm among many religions after the harvest. 

Today, however, it is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday. It is considered a statutory holiday in all provinces except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Despite their businesses being open, many Maritimers join in the celebrations regardless.

The origin of the first Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced all the way back to the explorer Martin Frobisher, who strove to find the Northwest Passage. 

-Sir Martin Frobisher (British School, Dulwich Picture Gallery)


His Thanksgiving celebration, the giving of thanks, was not for a harvest but for his and his crew’s fortitude and their survival of the grueling long journey from England that led through the perils of storms and icebergs.

In 1578, on his third and final voyage to these regions in Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut), during the formal ceremony and the first-ever service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall in which they celebrated Communion, Frobisher gave thanks to God. Hence the Thanksgiving tradition was born and it continued on with subsequent settlers that arrived in the Canadian colonies.

Painting by George Agnew Reid, (1908), arrival of Samuel de Champlain at Quebec City

Chaleur Bay and Gulf of Saint Lawrence — extract of Champlain 1612 Map

Canadian Thanksgiving can also be traced back to the French settlers who came to New France with the explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century. The French settlers celebrated their successful bounty at the end of the harvest season. The feast and the sharing of food also included the indigenous people of the area. Champlain had also proposed the creation of the Order of Good Cheer in 1606.

19th century artist's conception of Champlain by E. Ronjat 

19th century artist's conception of Champlain by E. Ronjat

With the arrival of many more immigrants in Canada, the celebrations of a good harvest became a common event. Scottish, Irish and Germans settlers have also enriched this tradition of giving thanks for the good harvest. 

The US tradition of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey or what were called Guinea fowls originating from Madagascar), was also incorporated when United Empire Loyalist fled from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.

This old Canadian tradition of giving thanks during family gatherings, regardless of religions and creeds, will undoubtedly grow and flourish, for many years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

And Finally, I would like to include this nice Zen story about what it means to be thankful:

The Giver Should Be Thankful

The master of Engaku in Kamakura, Seisetsu was so well known for his teachings that many flocked to his tutelage. Consequently, the School’s accommodations became seriously overcrowded.

Umezu Sibei, a highly successful merchant of Edo, happened to be visiting the region and so paid a courtesy visit to the esteemed teacher. Noting the meagre lodgings of the school and feeling rather magnanimous he, on his return to his residence, made arrangements to donate five hundred pieces of gold (ryo) towards the construction of a more spacious school. 

A few days later, his chest swelling with pride, Umezu revisited the school and personally handed the sack of gold over to the teacher Seiseutsu. But when Seisetsu simply received the amount with his matter-of-fact attitude and only the assertion: “All right. I will take it.”, Umezu became highly dissatisfied.

One can live a whole year on just three ryo, Umezu grumbled under his breath, yet I’ve not received even a simple thank you for my magnanimous gift of five hundred ryo?

Refusing to take his leave, Umezu shifted uncomfortably and, after clearing his throat with a slight cough, added poignantly: “You know of course that in that sack are five hundred ryo?”

“Yes I know; you mentioned it previously.” Seisetsu replied impassively, turning to leave.

“Though I’m a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is still considered a hefty sum,” Umezu grumbled rather loudly.

“Do you wish a thank you for it?” Half turning, Seisetsu asked.

“Well, don’t you think you ought to?” responded Uzemu.

Seisetsu simply said: “Why? It’s the giver who should be thankful. ” 


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