Q. (See questions 3390 – 93 above) Is the tradition of Thanksgiving different in Canada than in the U.S. besides the date. Is the origin of the Canadian Thanksgiving religious, since it may have been instituted by the church and therefore should not be celebrated at all?
A. Canadian Thanksgiving happens a full month and a half before American.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac mentions that the tradition of Thanksgiving originated with the harvest festival—an autumnal celebration meant to show appreciation for the bountiful harvest of the season. However, Canadian Thanksgiving was originally less about celebrating the harvest and more about thanking G-d for keeping early explorers safe as they ventured into the New World.
In that sense of “thanks-giving,” the earliest report of such a dinner dates back to 1578, when English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew held a special meal to thank G-d for granting them safe passage through northern North America, into what is today the Canadian Territory of Nunavut.
The first Thanksgiving after Canadian Confederation didn’t happen until April 1872, when the holiday was observed to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.
Since the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday, its date has moved several times—from mid-week in April to a Thursday in November—until 1957, when the Canadian government officially declared that Thanksgiving would occur on the second Monday in October. This ensured that Thanksgiving and another Canadian holiday, Remembrance Day (November 11), would no longer overlap.
Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a opinion is that regardless of what may have been the origin of that day, it is not considered a religious holiday in our days and the same Halacha as in the U.S. would apply.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller and Horav Aharon Miller Shlit’a