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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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

 

 

 

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