Today we Canadian’s celebrate our Thanksgiving Day, which, from the research I have done began 42 years prior to the first Pilgrim (early Puritans) Thanksgiving in New England! Interesting…
Historically, our Canadian Thanksgiving began with the completion of a tumultuous third voyage of explorer Sir Martin Frobisher, who, under the sponsorship of Queen Elizabeth I in 1578, came to North America in search of a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. He landed that year in what is now known as our province of Newfoundland, and formally celebrated surviving his long journey exploring this passage, and not for a successful harvest (as the Pilgrims did in Plymouth Colony 42 years later in 1620).
Frobisher introduced to North America what his sponsor, Queen Elizabeth I, did throughout her 44-year long reign – annually marking her gratitude to be alive, a leader, protected and appreciated by Her people – via public displays of Thanksgiving from the year of her coronation, 1559, until her death in 1603. It was proclaimed a day of dancing, laughter, love and tears – the Merrie Old England depicted by the playwrights William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and the poet Edmund Spencer, all of the Elizabethan Era.
In 1578 Frobisher and his men brought this Elizabethan mindset with them, and succeeding immigrant groups to what is now Canada did the same:
- The French, via explorer Samuel de Champlain, who founded what became New France and Quebec City, in 1604, celebrated all of this via Thanksgiving feasts;
- After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, when New France was handed over to the British, Halifax citizens feasted their Thanksgiving;
- The Loyalists from America, colonist survivors of the American Revolution (1775-1783), who remained loyal to England, brought the American customs of Thanksgiving to Quebec and Nova Scotia – the turkey, squash and pumpkin pie;
- Lower and Upper Canada observed Thanksgiving on different dates in 1816, celebrating the end of the war between France and England;
- In 1838, Lower Canada used Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion. Thereafter Thanksgiving was celebrated six times from 1850 to 1865 as they merged into a united Province of Canada.
The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness. For many years prior to November 6, 1879 (when it was finally declared a national, rather than religious, holiday) Thanksgiving Day was celebrated either in late October or early November.
In 1957 Thanksgiving Day was officially declared to be the second Monday in October. The theme changed each year to reflect on an important event to be thankful for.
What I found fascinating whilst researching all of this is the ROOT of the difference between the Canadian and American versions of their respective Thanksgiving Day:
- Sir Martin Frobisher sailed to North America in 1578 under sponsorship of Queen Elizabeth I, and brought with him Her version of what Thanksgiving meant – surviving her half-sister Queen Mary’s repeated efforts to kill Her (Elizabeth) and then successfully reigning for the next 44 years thereafter, whilst bringing further employment, progress and wealth to the country that had suffered greatly under her half-sister “Bloody Mary” (who wanted to end the Reformation, to reform the Church of England to full communion with the Church of Rome) and previous to that, her father King Henry VIII’s English Reformation (reforming movements of Erasmian, Lutheran, Reformed, and the Church of England – which displayed similarities with Roman Catholicism) which morphed into Calvinism (and Evangelical reform) under his son, Edward VI’s reign (prior to “Bloody Mary’s” reign).
- The Pilgrims were Separatists, emerging during Elizabeth I’s reign (she had been raised as a Protestant, and attempted to make England Protestant without alienating the Catholic population who had supported Mary – aka the Elizabethan Religious Settlement in 1559) by separating from the Church of England in the late 1580’s. By 1606, due to social hostility and fear of future persecution, this group left England for Amsterdam, then by 1617 wanted to move to where they could still retain their English identity, so in 1620 landed in the US state of New England at Plymouth Rock. This Plymouth Colony later experienced tensions between the Indians and previous New England colonists, turning into the deadly conflict called King Philip’s War. In 1620 the Pilgrims gave their first Thanksgiving for a successful harvest by befriending and cooperating with the Indians in order to learn how to survive the coming winter.
- The Puritan Movement came about in the 1560’s, for further reform of the Church of England (aka Anglican Church). From the 1560’s to 1570’s, Calvinism also came into being. In this pro-Protestant, anti-Catholic environment, the Puritans pushed for more reforms on the Church of England via the Admonition to the Parliament, setting off a major controversy in England.
- King James VI of Scotland (Queen Mary’s son) who took the throne after Queen Elizabeth I’s death in 1603, had been raised in the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, which looked broadly like the type of church the Puritans wanted in England. In 1604 they held a conference (the Hampton Court Conference) with the King to discuss their issues. He agreed to some reform, not wholly. By 1623-1624, King James viewed the Church of England to be a mix or middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. It all went downhill from here, hence the rather large immigration of Puritans from England to New England between 1630-1640. The Puritans had believed the Anglican Church needed to be purified of the influence of Catholicism. When England’s rulers refused to make these changes, the Puritans felt they needed to live elsewhere.
What are we learning here? Freedom to pray as one wished AND thankfulness of having survived – be it exploring uncharted waters/country, immigrating to a new country and learning how to “weather” the extreme elements and original occupants, or the end of a war, with renewed Peace and Prosperity.
I find it fascinating to look back in history to the roots of the beginnings of our two countries who share a Thanksgiving Day and a continent, yet do so for different reasons and in different months of the year.
What are YOU grateful for today, and give THANKS for? How do you show this during these annual feasts? Sharing your table and bounty with family, friends, strangers? By yourself? Ignoring it completely?
I am most grateful to what is left of my family, to the family who have departed us, and to the work I am gifted to share with my clients, students, and strangers to Astrology (which is not a religion)! I give Thanks for the health of my physical body, how I continue to Keep on Keeping On despite my struggles, and to all my Soul Family – those Earth Angels who have shown me, and my family, their support these past two years especially.
Returning to our Roots has the distinct similarity to Returning to Basics: remember WHY you are doing WHEN you are doing, while BEing all at the same time. Explorers and people fleeing wars or religious persecution of the distant past – coming full circle to watching it all unfold yet again in the Middle East – interesting what goes around, comes around. In ways and means we would never imagine in the moment of Action we take to BE FREE to BE ME (Uranus in Aries since May 29, 2010) in the here and now.
Posted by: Laurie Rae Rezanoff, Intuitive Spiritual Astrologer, Teacher, Speaker, Writer & Facilitator
Credits: Wikipedia + Edmonton Journal Sept 12, 2005 + Historica Canada blog + Biography.com
Photo Credits: Laurie Rae Rezanoff, 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend in Okotoks, AB, Canada