Sunday, November 27, 2011

THANKSGIVING and CHRISTMAS - Canadian and America

After two years of full-timing and making a lot of American friends, I want to set the record straight about the differences between Canadian Thanksgiving as well as American Thanksgiving and Canadian Christmas and American Christmas.

According to Canadian Living Magazine:

"Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October to coincide with harvest. In Canada, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for food, friends, families and everything good in our lives.

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is also celebrated with big meal among friends and family, but Americans give thanks to the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620. American Thanksgiving is celebrated in November and they indulge not only in food, but also in watching football and shopping."

Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November for many, many years.  Canadian Thanksgiving has only been on the second Monday of October since 1957.   Starting in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated on a Sunday in November until, in 1957, it was officially changed to the second Monday in October. Since 1971 Canadian Thanksgiving has coincided with Columbus Day in the US.

Interesting too, and I didn't know this, Thanksgiving is not a statutory holiday in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 Here are some of our observations .  Thanksgiving in the US is a much bigger deal than Thanksgiving in Canada.  American Thanksgiving seems to be the start of the Christmas season.  Canadian Thanksgiving is a long way away from Christmas.  Not sure which I would prefer.

Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving, so do Canadians.  But Canadians traditionally eat turkey at Christmastime too.  I guess turkey once at the end of November and again December 25th would be too much turkey for Americans.

Christmas, of course is celebrated on December 25th in both countries.  A big deal for both of us.  Depending on your heritage, the big meal may be on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  Some cultures open gifts on Christmas Eve too.  Religious families go to church on Christmas Eve, some as late as midnight.  Some families don't put their trees up until Christmas Eve.

These are our traditions.  We never put up our Christmas tree until after Graeme's birthday, December 16th.  We always had a real tree, potted or otherwise so leaving it that late was a good thing.  When Doug and I were kids, we actually went out and cut down our tree.  Now most people we know gather the family and go to a Christmas tree farm to cut down their tree.

Christmas Eve we usually visited grandparents and had Chinese food for dinner.  Christmas morning in our house usually started around 8:00 am.  We liked to make it last so we had breakfast (cranberry scones and cinnamon twists) before we opened gifts.  Doug and I carried on our childhood tradition of designating a Santa to distribute the gifts, probably the youngest child.  Gifts were handed out one at a time, from the youngest to the oldest person.  That way we saw what everyone got and could keep the wrapping paper mess to a minimum.  So gift opening went on until about lunch time.  We didn't eat lunch because by this time Mom had put out the Christmas goodies; shortbread, butter tarts. fruit cake and the family's favourite - turtles.  There were chips and dips, boxes of chocolates and eggnog.

Christmas dinner was served at about 4:00 pm.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots,and peas as well as everyone's favourite - brussel sprouts (I don't think so!). Dessert was plum pudding - we called it figgy pudding - and hard sauce, a rich concoction of icing sugar, tons of butter and rum.

One thing we concluded by residing in the US for the Christmas of 2009 and 2010, Americans don't use Christmas Crackers.  Not like saltines but " A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun)."  Inside the cracker is a little prize and a crown made of tissue paper.  We insisted that everyone wear there Christmas crowns.  Crackers became very expensive of late so we gave up that tradition because we normally had 10 to 20 people at our table.

You may be surprised to know that in the Vancouver area, we rarely had snow for Christmas.  In fact, when we did have snow it meant that relatives from the other side of the city wouldn't come.

Part of reason I am making this blog is because I have been to several pot lucks at Christmas time in the US.  We had never experienced green bean casserole before (and will never again)and deviled eggs were something we hadn't had since we were children at neighbourhood birthday parties.  The other day upon reading an American friends blog about Christmas baking, I was surprised to find that I didn't even know what some of the baking goodies were. Ruglach, Magic Bars, funfetti?

And of course, the day after Christmas in Canada is Boxing Day.  Boxing Day is visiting day.  Show up at someone's house and help them eat their leftovers.  Originally Boxing Day was the day the rich took boxes of gifts or money to church for the poor.  Boxing Day is a statutory holiday so it's convenient because most years working people get 4 or 5 days off in a row.

Lots of people shop til they drop on Boxing Day.  Retailers have huge sales on Boxing Day much like Black Fridays.  Lines are unreal with crazies lining up overnight.

This blog is a long one.  I hope you enjoyed it.


FULL-TIMERS...OCT. 17, 2009 said...

Goodness you are full of so much excellent information. I have never heard of Christmas Crackers. Now I know what they are and how to use them.
I have heard about the term Box Day but had NO idea what the heck it was. Thanks for all the explanations. You did a great job!
I do want to throw in one more thing that many, many of the American people are thankful for...Our Blessings from God. We do always thank Him each day but also and especially on Thanksgiving. Without Him we would not have that holiday.

Wanderin' said...

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in the U.S. instead of the 3rd Thursday.

Many Americans traditionally eat turkey at Christmas time too. I think the food items vary with individual family traditions. Our meals were similar to yours except for pumpkin pie was a tradition.

I've never heard it said that Americans give thanks to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving and gave Thanks to God. We celebrate in the same fashion just remembering the first Thanksgiving but not giving thanks to the Pilgrims.

I have no idea what ruglach, magic bars and funfetti are. We usually made lots of decorated sugar cookies and decorated them like Santa Claus and his group of merry elves and reindeer. We also made lots of fudge and had gobs of chocolate around.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were definitely times we stuffed ourselves.

There are lots of differences between traditions and lots of similarities too.

Jim and Sandie said...

Nice to compare our two countries and see the sameness and yet with differences. Thanksgiving time is definitely when we give Thanks to our Father in Heaven for all the blessings that we so enjoy on this earth. Then we eat, and eat, and eat. We usually have a ham at Christmas because everyone is so tired of turkey by then. And I know what Magic Bars are. The other two - nope.

~~Sue and Doug~~ said...

great comparison Toni!! I have forgotten a few of our traditions...we always have eggs benedict for breakfast on Christmas morning..and the crackers?..I make my own with empty toilet rolls..fill them with candy and a scratch ticket for each dinner guest!..wrap them up with pretty paper and ribbon!!..

Linda Sand said...

Thanksgiving is turkey and pumpkin pie; everything else is bonus. We eat pumpkin pie now at Christmas, too, because we like it so well but traditionally Christmas is cookies and candy and maybe a tangerine in the toe of your stocking. When our daughter was little we also served birthday cake at Christmas to help her understand we were celebrating the birth of Jesus.