Tag Archives: Parade

Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving Celebrations

Although very similar culturally, Canada and the United States have distinct differences. One fun way to think about these differences is in the ways each celebrates the holiday of Thanksgiving.

Although Thanksgiving celebrations are held in some way in many parts of the world, the celebrations in Canada and the United States date from roughly the same time period and have been influenced by many of the same cultural groups.

Date Differences

One of the biggest differences between the celebrations is the date. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October and the celebrations usually last into the weekend. Generally, Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the Columbus Day holiday, which many Americans – particularly Italian-Americans – celebrate with parades.

However, prior to the 19th century, many Canadian provinces set their own date for Thanksgiving celebrations. In the early 1900s, many Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving in November but this date was changed following World War I since it fell too close to Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day) ceremonies. In 1957, Canada officially declared the second Monday in October for Thanksgiving celebrations.

Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law that changed the date that President Abraham Lincoln had assigned to Thanksgiving. Lincoln had chosen the final Thursday in November, which does not always fall on the fourth Thursday, in an effort to unite the northern and southern states following the Civil War. Roosevelt changed the date in an effort to give the country an economic lift during the Great Depression.

Holiday Origins

Canadian Thanksgiving traces its origins to Martin Frobisher, an English explorer who was trying to find a Northwest Passage. Upon arrival in Canada, he and his companions held a celebration to give thanks for a safe arrival after a difficult and dangerous journey.

As with most things in Canada, the French had an equal influence on the holiday. French explorer Samuel de Champlain led a group of French settlers to Canada in the 17th century who then held a great feast at the end of the successful harvest. There are even reports that they shared their food with the indigenous people of the area.

American Thanksgiving is generally believed to date from the Pilgrim harvest celebration in 1621. However, many researchers believe the first Thanksgiving was actually held by Spanish explorers in Florida in 1565. In 1619, settlers in the Virginia colony also held a feast to celebrate the anniversary of the settlement.

Celebrations Today

Canadians celebrate in much the same way that Americans do: feasts, parades, football, harvest decorations, travel, and time with family. Unlike most Americans, though, Canadians have no fixed day for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Since the holiday falls on a Monday, Canadians serve up their feast Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, although most people hold their feast on Sunday.

The Feast

Many Canadians roast a turkey and serve cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, and pies for their Thanksgiving feast, although a baked ham might also be the featured dish.

FineCooking.com has some great recipes to give you a taste of what a traditional Thanksgiving feast is like in Canada. Here’s just a few to whet your appetite.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

 

Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon & Leeks

 

Maple-Bacon Glazed Turkey with Wild Rice & Cornbread Stuffing & Bourbon Gravy

 

Cranberry Sauce with Vanilla, Maple Syrup & Cassis

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The Festival of Purim

EstherPurim has been described as a Jewish mash-up of Halloween and Mardi Gras. The story of Purim is well-known to readers of the Old Testament. The Book of Esther tells how Esther, the Jewish wife of a Persian king, saved the Jewish people from the plot of an evil advisor to the king, named Haman. 

Haman had a grudge against Mordecai, who happened to be Esther’s cousin. Haman convinced the king to send out a decree that called on the rest of the kingdom to kill all the Jewish people. This decree would have included Esther but the king did not know she was Jewish.

Esther – knowing that the fickle king could easily have her killed – asked the Jewish people to fast for three days and then she went to the king and informed him that she was Jewish and that Mordecai was her cousin.

The king promised to give her anything she wanted. Haman was hanged for his evil plan and Mordecai became the king’s advisor in his place. Although it was too late to rescind the order to have the Jewish people killed, Mordecai amended the order so that the Jewish people could defend themselves. The following day the Jewish people celebrated and it is this celebration that is known today as Purim.

Jewish people typically observe Purim by publicly reading the story from the Book of Esther, giving to the poor, and sharing food. Some people produce plays, dress up in costumes, hold beauty contests, and have parades.

One popular food on Purim is a cookie called hamantaschen. It is translated to mean “Haman’s pockets” or “Haman’s ears,” and their triangle shape is said to mimic Haman’s triangle hat. Check back tomorrow for a post on this awesome – and fun – cookie.

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It’s Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras KidThere’s a lot going on today. In addition to Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday, today is also the 100th International Women’s Day, which I’ll be posting on later today.

But Mardi Gras deserves attention all on its own.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last day before the Christian season of Lent begins. In Lent, Christians make sacrifices, fast, pray, and try to prepare for Easter, the holiest time in their religious calendar.

So Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before the solemnity of the Lenten season. And some people really do make the most of it.

In Brazil, Carnivale has a world-famous reputation as an all-out extravaganza.

In the United States, New Orleans pretty much holds the title for most festive Mardi Gras destination.

The celebrations can get wild – but there are some family-friendly traditions that anyone can adopt.

King CakeOne of the most fun is King Cake. King Cake is not only eaten during Mardi Gras, but it is also a popular food during the Christmas holidays in places such as France, Belgium, Portugal, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and Spain.

Inside the cake is a tiny figure of a baby, meant to be the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the figure in his or her piece of cake earns the right to buy next year’s King Cake (I like this tradition!).

In addition to King Cake, parades are a common activity at Mardi Gras festivities. You can organize a mini-parade with your family either inside or outside (depending on how frigid it is where you live). Dress up in masks and pile on every piece of funny clothing, jewelry, or decoration you can find.

Mardi Gras beadsIf you’ve got beads, flaunt them! Mardi Gras beads are traditionally distributed during parades. These plastic beads, usually found in purple, green, and gold, are fun treasures for kids to collect. You can give out beads according to your own idea of a good time. Encourage your children to compliment each other or do nice things for other friends or family members in order to earn the beads. You can keep the fun going long after Mardi Gras.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

I read the most fascinating article this weekend by Mitch Albom in Parade magazine (you know, that magazine that comes with the Sunday paper).

It was about a 14 year old boy in Malawi named William Kamkwamba who built a windmill using discarded materials and only a book with pictures for a guide.

He was too poor to go to school and the people in his village thought he was a little crazy, but he knew what a windmill could mean for him and his family.

“A windmill could make electricity, electricity could pump water, and water could grow crops for his drought-plagued village.”

In three months he had built a windmill capable of lighting a lightbulb.  He built more windmills until finally he had one capable of supporting a water pump.

Today, he is 22 and the author of the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with Bryan Mealor.

It’s an amazing story that should really serve to inspire us not only about what children are capable of doing but also what we – as adults – are capable of doing. We can provide encouragement to a child even if we think their goal is a little crazy or inconvenient. Just think of the possibilities.

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