Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada. It’s a holiday that is particularly important to me, but more about that later.
Many people of the American sort have asked me why Thanksgiving is so much earlier in Canada than it is in the good old Us of A. The actual story of our Thanksgiving is that it predates the American one by a full 43 years. In 1576, well before the Pilgrims had even thought about sitting around a campfire with popcorn and other North American delights, Martin Frobisher and his crew decided to have a Thanksgiving ceremony on a frozen windswept shore. Personally, I think they may have been most Thankful for not drowning on the way over, and for getting dry land under their feet, so that they could be thankful that the seasickness would have abated. Nothing spoils a good celebratory dinner like leaning over the rails of you ship losing your Thanksgiving breakfast and lunch.
Over the years Thanksgiving moved around a fair bit, but for several years in the 1950’s it was held on the second Monday in October. I would like to point out that I was born on the second Monday in October in 1953. My mother often said she missed out on one turkey and got another. I’d like to think she was talking about the turkey served in her hospital room instead of the one at home., but others seem to think differently.
Finally in 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the , Thanksgiving would be "a day of general thanksgiving to almighty Gord for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed." They spelled Gord without the r, but I like to think that was just a typo.
For many years I have told Americans that we eat bald eagle on our Thanksgiving. Apparently, more than a few have believed me. This year an American friend accused me of picking on her country by insinuating that we would eat bald eagle. In fact, I have history on my side here. None other than Benjamin Franklin, pushed to have the turkey named as the American national bird.
Of course, old Ben was bat shit crazy by that point and had taken to flying kites in thunderstorms,.
Still, in 1784, he wrote a letter to his daughter Sally, stating:
"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Birdnot bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . .
"I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
Like I said, I think Ben had a few screws loosened by lightning strikes.
An American friend also wondered, if we ate baby seal pups, too. “Heavens no!” I said. “That’s for Christmas!”
To my Canadian friends and readers, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. You can bestow your thanks upon me.
To those of you of the American persuasion, I want you to know that, as Canadians, we don’t mind anything you might do on your Thanksgiving. You can eat a Canada Goose, stuff a Great Northern Loon, or, for that matter, you can even nibble on some beaver.
So there, boys and girls is your history lesson for today, and you can take it from me, The Almighty Gord, that I will be eating dead bird, and dead bird leftovers for the next week and a half. We have a 24-pound bird in the oven. Is it a turkey, or is it really a bald eagle? I leave that to your imagination.