the Story of Canadian Thanksgiving

Everyone knows how American Thanksgiving began. The story of the pilgrims and the Native Americans enjoying a feast has been told so many times it’s almost become a myth. With Canadian Thanksgiving fast approaching, I’ve begun wondering — how did Thanksgiving start in my beloved homeland?

Unlike America, there was no single event that lead to Canadian Thanksgiving. Instead, Canadian Thanksgiving was the result of many traditions combining into one.

Days devoted to thanks have existed for a long time, starting when Noah made his thanks offering after leaving the Ark. One of the earliest recorded Thanksgiving traditions started in Port-Royal, where, at the suggestion of a man known as Samuel de Champlain, the Order of Good Cheer was formed.

Port-Royal had just undergone a hard winter. Many people had become ill with scurvy. Some had died. As a result, morale was very low. The Order of Good Cheer was formed to combat this. To this end, the Order of Good Cheer used was hosting public gatherings.

The first of these gatherings took place in November, 1606. It could be described as Canada’s earliest recorded Thanksgiving. Nearly every white man in Port-Royal joined in, as did many of the Mi’kmaq people.

These gatherings took place weekly, from winter to spring, stopping briefly during summer and fall, before being taken up again in winter.

A century later, Canada was flooded by Loyalists, who brought their own Thanksgiving traditions with them. This is why our Thanksgiving traditions have much in common with American Thanksgiving — turkeys and pumpkins being a few examples.

The first official Thanksgiving day was declared in 1872, during November. I was surprised by that fact. For those who don’t live in Canada, Thanksgiving here is celebrated in early October. American Thanksgiving is in November. Every year, I get cards from my American cousins, wishing me a happy Thanksgiving a month too late.

Even after a lifetime of receiving these cards, I’m still slightly startled when I realize that, for Americans, Thanksgiving hasn’t come yet.

How did our Thanksgivings transfer from November to October?

The answer, like much of Canadian history, is annoyingly simple.

For a while Thanksgiving was on the closest Thursday to November 11. Eventually, the government just moved Thanksgiving to the eleventh. The problem was, November 11 had just been made home to another official holiday — Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I.

I’m not sure how people where supposed to celebrate both these holidays at the same time. Perhaps they were supposed to be thankful for the end of the war?

In 1931, Armistice Day was replaced by Remembrance Day, and Thanksgiving was booted to the second Monday in October. Thanksgiving hasn’t changed dates since. Like I said before, annoyingly simple.

If this were America, the story of how a national holiday changed date would doubtless contain more fireworks, and possibly a museum or two.

Nowadays, Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout Canada. Of course, Canada is a big country, and there is a lot of variation between provinces. In B.C., Nanaimo bars often form an important part of the Thanksgiving feast. Butter tarts are associated with Thanksgiving in Ontario, and in Newfoundland, Jiggs Dinner (similar to stew) often replaces roast turkey.

Soon the 145th Thanksgiving since 1872 will take place. National, provincial and personal Thanksgiving traditions will come into play. Delicious food will be cooked and served. For that, I am thankful.

A Note

When researching this article, I was unable to find any information about First Nation autumn festivals or days devoted to giving thanks. If you happen to know anything about that particular subject, please let me know.

Sources

Recipe for Jiggs Dinner
Canadian Thanksgiving, the Canadian Encyclopedia
Thanksgiving, Wikipedia
Mi’kmaq, Wikipedia

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Four Bizarre Foods

The world is full of bizarre, strange, and weird foods. Frog legs, squid and escargot, to name a few. Everyone has a different opinion about how these foods taste. Some claim these foods are the most delicious things they have ever tried. Others are so grossed out by the very idea of these foods, that they would rather starve than eat them.

Here is a list of some of the world’s bizarre foods, when people started eating them, where they are popular, and, in some cases, opinions on how they taste.

Escargot

People have been eating snails — known in France as escargot — since prehistoric times. In Ancient Rome, snails were considered a delicacy and were rarely served.

When snails are served as escargot, they’re usually taken out of their shell, cooked, then put back in their shell with sauce. I can’t help thinking that escargot looks like something made by a sick dog.

In many parts of the world, snails are such a popular food that snail farms have sprung up. These farms sell snails for escargot, and snail eggs for caviar.

I would try any food, at least once. The only exception? Escargot. Just looking at photos turns my stomach.

But if you, personally, want to try escargot, there are multiple recipes online. Sadly, I don’t know where to get the snails.

Frog

Cuisses de grenouille — the infamous French delicacy, known to English speakers as frog legs. But frog isn’t only eaten by the French. It’s eaten all across Europe, throughout China, in the Caribbean, and, surprisingly, in some parts of the United States.

In some areas, the demand for frog legs has become a problem. See, most edible frogs are caught in the wild. Which means, that if to many frogs are caught, the wild frog population could become dangerously low.

This is especially a problem in the Caribbean, where a species of local frog, named ‘mountain chicken’, has been classified as critically endangered, thanks in part to being caught, cooked and eaten.

Two members of my family have tasted frog. One is my grandpa, and the other is my dog. The frog my grandpa ate had been cooked. The one my dog ate was not cooked; in fact, it was rotten.

According to my grandpa, frog legs taste like chicken. He says that if he hadn’t known he was eating frog legs, he’d have honestly thought it was chicken. I’d be willing to try meat that tasted like that, even if it did come from a frog.

Squid

It’s hard to imagine someone pulling a slimy, tentacled creature out of the sea and deciding to eat it, but apparently it happened … more than once. Squid is eaten all over the world — from Europe to Asia, to Central America. Pretty much any place touching the ocean.

Cooked squid is known by various names, such as calamari, san ojingeo, kalmar tava and adobong pusit. One can buy squid steaks, squid jerky, and enjoy stuffed squid. In Italy, squid are often put in pasta.

I once tried the salt and pepper squid at a Chinese restaurant. It was flavourless, but went down easily. I ate several, then brought the rest home for my dog.

With a different sauce … squid could become delicious.

Fugu

Most people have heard of fugu — also known as blowfish. The poisonous fish that the Japanese love eating. If cooked right, it tastes — according to the Japanese — delicious, and causes absolutely no harm at all. But if one mistake is made in the preparation … you die.

It’s hard to imagine the ancients deciding to risk squid. Blowfish doesn’t look as strange — I can see some poor fisherman deciding it was safer to eat than squid. But I can’t see them doing that again, even if they survived. There is no way that the first fugu eaters knew the proper recipe.

Even today, with the proper recipe, twenty people per year die from eating fugu, and many more are hospitalized.

When I first began reading about fugu, I suspected that it became popular as a way of poisoning political rivals, or as a samurai dare game.

I was wrong on both counts. Fugu has been eaten for 2,300 years, since the Jōmon period. There is no evidence it was ever used for assassinations. The last shogunate in Japan banned fugu, but fugu returned as soon as the shogunate was gone. Today, fugu is the one food that the Emperor of Japan is forbidden from eating — a precaution to keep him safe.

In my opinion, fugu is not a food. It’s Russian roulette on a plate.

In Closing

If you had no choice but to eat one of the above foods, every day for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Sources

Wikipedia

Recipe for Escargot

Recipe for Stewed Squid

Recipe for Frog Legs

Mountain Chicken

the Myths and Facts of Jurassic Park

‘Jurassic Park’ is one of the most well known movie series of all times. Even those who haven’t watched it have heard of it. Pre-historic monsters hunting screaming humans; a recipe for success.

Of course, one has to wonder—were real dinosaurs anything like the ones in ‘Jurassic Park’?

Brachiosaurus

The infamous Veggiesaurus — a harmless herbivore that couldn’t hurt a fly if it tried.

If anyone believes the above statement, they’ve got a surprise coming. Herbivores are often more dangerous than carnivores. Take the moose, for instance. A herbivore that lives of greens, yet attacks more humans than bears and wolves combined, and injures more humans per year than any other wild animal, except the hippo (also a herbivore).
If, like most herbivores, you live in a world full of things that want to eat you, then you need to be able to defend yourself.

A tiny human hardly would’ve been worth the attention of a dinosaur as huge as Brachiosaurus. However, one wrong step from Brachiosaurus, and those poor palaeontologists would have gone squish!

Triceratops

Many people’s favourite dinosaur, yet Triceratops appeared in the movie for only a few minutes. Apparently the screenwriters didn’t think it had much plot potential.

I think otherwise.

Triceratops weighed as much as an African elephant. Did you know elephants are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa? Elephants killed over two hundred people in the years between 2000 and 2004. A group of elephants once killed a rhino.

Of course, elephants are also beautiful, amazing creatures. Seeing one in the wild should be on every person’s bucket list. If Triceratops were still around, I imagine it would be the same.

Scientist have uncovered a Triceratops skull with a dent in one of it’s horns, the same shape as a T. Rex tooth. What was really interesting was the fact the bone had healed over — in other words, the Triceratops had fought a T. Rex, and lived to tell about it.

Now that’s plot potential!

Velociraptor

The Velociraptor was very, very different from what was portrayed in the movies. The movie Velociraptors have nothing in common with the pre-historic ones, except the name.

For starters, actual Velociraptors were three feet high, not seven feet. There is no evidence Velociraptors hunted in packs, and no evidence that they were smarter than the average turkey.

Velociraptors did not have the feather mohawks shown in the third movie. They also weren’t scaly or leathery. Real Velociraptors were completely covered in feathers — they looked like a cross between a deranged toucan and a clawed duck.

That’s not to say Velociraptors weren’t dangerous — each foot had a three inch claw. A fight with a Velociraptor would, at the very least, leave you needing stitches.

In Closing

Dinosaurs were amazing, wonderful creatures. Some, like Triceratops, got little screen time, but were portrayed accurately. Others, like the velociraptors, received lots of screen time, but were portrayed completely wrong. Brachiosaurus got stuck somewhere in between.

That said, if Jurassic Park was real place, and you could see any one of these dinosaurs, which would you choose?

Sources

Brachiosaurus, Wikipedia

Velociraptor, Wikipedia

Triceratops, Wikipedia

Velociraptors, Business Insider

 

 

 

Charlottesville

I’m sure every one of you has heard about Charlottesville.  One person is dead, and dozens more are in the hospital.

Donald Trump won’t acknowledge this act of terrorism.  Like Cornelius Fudge, he’s sticking his head in sand, refusing to face the truth in order to win favour from the pure-bloods/white supremacists/Nazis.

I’m Canadian, and have no say about what happens in America.  But I can tell you that nearly every member of our country is shaking their heads.  There’s disgust, every time the attack is mentioned.  Horror.  Sorrow.  Prime Minister Trudeau may be a yes-man, but even he has standards.

All I can say is, the best of luck to the men and women in the United States who won’t stop fighting for justice, even if the leader of their country tells them to stop. Know that you have this Canadian’s support, every step of the way.

 

‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’
— Nelson Mandela

Tangled vs. Frozen

Which is better quality, Frozen or Tangled?

Well, a large amount of people believe Tangled is better quality. Why do they think that? Because more effort was put into Tangled’s animations. And the plot is structurally perfect. All the characters have tidy story arcs, resolved without any plotholes.

These people seem to define quality as a list of rules; the more rules checked off, the better the quality.

I define quality differently. To me, quality is the strength of emotions that a story invokes. People don’t go to movies just to see pretty images on screen. They go to the movies to have a powerful emotional experience. Pretty images are just a bonus.

So is Tangled better quality than Frozen? Let’s start with a look at each movies first scene.

How did Tangled begin? With a man’s voice happily declaring, ‘This is the story of how I died’. A few people laughed. Most were intrigued.

And Frozen? The first thing viewers saw was a beautiful image of ice, suddenly disrupted by a saw bursting through the screen.

People jumped in their seats. Some yelped. Then, of course, they realized what had happened, and smiled in relief, or giggled nervously.

Strong emotion often shows physically. Tangled’s opening resulted in two physical symptoms—quiet laughter and smiles.

Frozen’s opening resulted in three; flinching with shock, then smiles, and, for some, laughter.

Three against two—Frozen wins.

There is one thing even lovers of Tangled will admit. Frozen has much better music.

Why is this important? Because music speaks directly to the brain, and, by extension, the heart. Music can move people to tears, calm panic attacks, and sooth people in pain.

How much emotion did you feel during ‘Mother Knows Best’? And how much, by comparison, did you fell during ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman’? Which one evoked more memories?

I believe the majority of people would answer the last question with ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman’.

Last time I checked, ‘Let It Go’ had received more than half a billion views on Youtube. How many covers does that song have? I was able to find one for the harp, the flute, the violin, the piano, the guitar, the ukelele and even Minecraft Noteblocks. ‘Let It Go’ may well have doubled Frozen’s quality.

Only one of Tangled’s song ‘At Last I See the Light’ has received widespread attention.

Frozen may have lacked animations as pretty as Tangled’s, but it invoked more emotion, and reached people on a much deeper level.

The way I see it, that makes Frozen better quality, even if it does ignore a few rules. There is no denying Tangled is awesome, but in my opinion, Frozen is better.

Macbeth: the Man and the Myth 

Macbeth is one of my favourite plays. That’s saying something, because I’ve only ever seen half the play. But I’ve read the script hundreds of times, and each time is as thrilling as the time before.

Finding out the play was was based on actual history was amazing. Who was the real Macbeth? Was he as ruthlessly ambitious as his fictional counterpart?

Macbeth was born in the eleventh century. His grandfather was Malcolm II, King of Scotland. Pretty much nothing is known about his childhood. In the eleventh century, a person’s childhood was rarely considered interesting enough to be recorded.

In 1020, Macbeth’s father was killed by a man named Gille Coemgáin. How did Macbeth feel about this? Was he angry, or was he forgiving?

All that is known is that Gille Coemgáin died before 1032, burned to death along with fifty of his men. No one knows who started the fire that Gille Coemgáin died in, but Macbeth is high on the list of suspects.

Afterwards, Macbeth married Gruoch, Gille’s wife. No one knows how this marriage came about, or what Gruoch thought of marrying a man suspected of murdering her husband.

Gruoch and Gille had at least one son, Lulach. Macbeth raised him as his own.

Malcolm II died in 1034, and was succeeded by Macbeth’s cousin Duncan. You might remember him from Shakespeare’s play. In the play, Macbeth murdered him to gain the throne. But was Duncan murdered in real life?

Duncan was probably not a popular king. His nickname was ‘An t-Ilgarach’, meaning ‘the diseased’. Duncan ruled for less than a decade. For some reason, Duncan decided it would be a good idea to lead an army against Moray—Macbeth’s territory.

Unsurprisingly, Macbeth defended himself against this attack, and Duncan was killed in the process. Death in battle is a different thing from being stabbed in your sleep. In this, at least, Macbeth was justified.

Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donald were children at the time. Malcolm, it is believed, was taken to England for safety, and Donald to Ireland.

Guess who seized the throne in the meantime? Yes, none other than Macbeth himself. In the play, Macbeth’s rein is portrayed as short, a few years at most. In reality, Macbeth ruled Scotland for seventeen years.

Then Malcolm, now an adult made his comeback. With the help of the English, he set out to regain his throne. Macduff, however, did not join Malcolm’s army. Why? Simple, really. As far as the evidence goes, Macduff never actually existed.

Records from the time claim Malcolm was the one who killed Macbeth. Although it could be that Malcolm stole another man’s glory, to make himself look better. Hard to tell, now that the battle’s lost and won.

Shakespeare’s play was based on real events—but very loosely. The facts are
fascinating, and I hope to learn more about the real Macbeth in the future.

If you have any thoughts on Macbeth you would like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

Gruoch, Wikipedia

Duncun I, Wikipedia

 

the Daughter of Marie-Antoinette

Who hasn’t heard of Marie-Antoinette? Even those who don’t know who she was know her name. But does anyone know the story of Marie-Antoinette’s daughters?

The children of Marie-Antoinette have fascinated me since I was a child. Yes, we all know what happened to Mary-Antoinette herself, but what happened to her children? The history books available contained no information, other than acknowledging these children’s existence.

Marie-Antoinette had four children, two of whom were daughters: Marie-Thérèse, her eldest child, and Sophie. Only one would live to adulthood.

Her firstborn, Marie-Thérèse, was born in December. Most of the court was disappointed; not a future king, but a girl. But Marie-Antoinette was happy. She looked at her newborn daughter and said: “Poor little one, you are not desired, but you will be none the less dear to me! A son would have belonged to the state—you will belong to me.”

Marie-Antoinette had a second child several years later—a boy, Louis Joseph, heir to the throne. Her second son, Louis Charles, was born in 1785. Marie-Antoinette then gave birth to her final child, Sophie, a second daughter.

What did Marie-Thérèse, then seven years old, think of the new baby? Was she jealous? Or was she delighted with her baby sister?

Eleven months and ten days later, Sophie died. Her death was likely the result of tuberculosis; she suffered from convulsions for nearly a week before she died.

Marie-Thérèse must have been devastated. The royal family was down one daughter; only the eldest remained.

Two years after Sophie passed away, Louis Joseph joined her in death. He was seven-years-old at the time, the closest in age to Marie-Thérèse. Four-year-old Louis Charles was now heir to the throne.

Mere months after Marie-Thérèse lost her brother, the palace of Versailles was stormed by an crowd of angry working women, who’d spent the last months struggling to get enough for their families to eat. The royal family was forced to take shelter in the king’s apartments. The crowd demanded the king and his family be removed from Versailles, to Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Together, both Marie-Antoinette and the king planned to escape France, and the Revolution. On June 21, 1791, both Marie-Thérèse and Louis Charles were disguised as middle class girls, and their mother as a middle class women. The royal family got into a six horsed carriage, and the escape began.

On June 22, one day later, the king and his family were recaptured. They were brought back to Paris and placed under house arrest.

In 1793, the king was executed. One evening in July, guards marched in the royal families apartment, and tore eight-year-old Louis Charles away from his mother and sister.

Marie-Antoinette was taken away a month later. Her daughter never saw her again, and for a two long years, had no clue whether her mother was alive or dead.

Marie-Thérèse was finally released in 1795, the day before her seventeenth birthday, and taken to Austria, her mother’s birth country.

The ruler of Austria, Marie-Thérèse’s uncle, had worked hard to get the royal family released. By the time he succeeded, only Marie-Thérèse was left. Louis Charles had died several months before.

Marie-Thérèse married Louis-Antoine in 1799. The two had no children; they rarely, if ever, slept together. Perhaps after the events of her own childhood, Marie-Thérèse was unwilling to risk children of her own.

In the following years, Marie-Thérèse attempted to return to France, but was forced, after a brave resistance, to leave by Napoleon. Surprisingly, Napoleon paid Marie-Thérèse what could be described as a compliment, saying she was the ‘only man in her family’.

On October 19, 1851, Marie-Thérèse died, the eldest daughter, and only surviving child of Marie-Antoinette. Hopefully her death reunited with her sister, Sophie and her brothers.

Sources

Mary-Thérèse, Wikipedia

Sophie, Wikipedia

Marie-Antoinette, Wikipedia

Marie Thérèse, History and Other Thoughts