Happy Thanksgiving, Canada

A happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians.

Last year I wrote a ThinkChristian piece on the origins of the holiday and the challenge of living out “relentless thankfulness.” In celebration of this festive weekend, here’s a little from that post:

Thanksgiving and grace in the Great White North

The story behind the first Canadian thanksgiving is a simple one.

In 1578, English explorer Martin Frobisher set out to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean … and failed. He then threw a formal celebration – a feast – in what is now Newfoundland to give thanks for his and his crew’s safe arrival in the Americas after a precarious sea journey.

In later years, French settlers held similar large feasts of thanks upon their arrival in the New World and were allegedly generous with their food, sharing it with the First Nations people around them.

Thanksgiving was sporadically celebrated in October and November until 1957, when the Canadian Parliament proclaimed the second Monday in October “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” In Canadian French, the holiday is called “Jour de l’Action de grace.”

So goes the genesis of the holiday. And it all began with a search, a failure and a feast. As I said, a simple story, really.

Relatable too, right? I know the first thing I feel like doing after a failed endeavor is throwing a huge feast of thanks. And comforting, as it proves that North Americans always live in perfect, charitable harmony with indigenous peoples on Canadian soil.


Wrong, of course. So very wrong. No part of me – no idyllic patriotism – will let me pretend otherwise.

So instead let me go back to that French term for the holiday for just a moment – to that English-distinguishable word at its end: grace. This is where I see relatability and comfort in the cobbled-together events that compose Thanksgiving’s beginning in my country.

It is grace, I think, that led Frobisher to meet his failure with a grateful feast for safe homecoming. It is grace, I know, that enables any person, in any country, to share his or her bounty with another.

And it is grace we need when these and other such acts of generosity exceed our grasp because of pride or ingratitude or begrudging. When we’re in the wrong place, on our own unwanted and wayward shores, and called to give thanks … anyway.

Continue reading here.

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