The Canadian Thanksgiving is an official statutory holiday on the second Monday in October for all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. It is called Action de grâce in Québec and is celebrated to a much lesser extent there than in the rest of the country, given the holiday’s Protestant origins and Anglo-nationalist associations.

Thanksgiving Day

The first official, annual Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated on 6 November 1879, though Indigenous peoples in Canada have a history of celebrating the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew are credited as the first Europeans to celebrate a Thanksgiving ceremony in North America, in 1578. They were followed by the inhabitants of New France under Samuel de Champlain in 1606. The celebration featuring the uniquely North American turkey, squash and pumpkin was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and became common across Canada by the 1870s.

The first Thanksgiving after Confederation was observed on 5 April 1872. A national civic holiday rather than a religious one, it was held to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from an illness. Thanksgiving was first observed as an annual event in Canada on 6 November 1879. The date for each of the following years, as well as a unifying theme for which to give thanks (usually concerning the harvest, though anniversaries related to the British monarchy were also common), was determined annually by Parliament. The holiday occurred as late in the year as 6 December and even coincided several times with American Thanksgiving. The most popular date to observe Thanksgiving was the third Monday in October, when the fall weather is generally still amenable to outdoor activities.

Beginning in 1921, Thanksgiving and Armistice Day (introduced in 1919) were celebrated on the same day — the first Monday in the week of 11 November. In order to give more recognition to veterans, 11 November was set solely as Remembrance Day in 1931. Thanksgiving was again proclaimed annually and typically observed on the second Monday in October. It was not until 31 January 1957 that Parliament proclaimed the observance of the second Monday in October as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” E.C. Drury, the former "Farmer-Premier" of Ontario, lamented later that “the farmers’ own holiday has been stolen by the towns” to give them a long weekend when the weather was better.