Family, football and, of course, feasting. While there are many traditions shared by Canadians and Americans for their Thanksgiving holidays, the origins of the day itself are quite different. Both Thanksgivings do involve a crossing by water, though: In the US, it was the hearty Pilgrims sailing to Plymouth Rock in 1621.
In Canada, the first “Thanksgiving” was hosted by explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578. His intention was to give thanks and show gratitude for his successful completion of the sailing of the Northwest Passage, located in the Canadian territory now known as Nunavut.
Frobisher’s celebration was actually held in Newfoundland, so we’ll start with those two locations for our roundup of the best places from coast to coast to be a part of a truly Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated the second Monday in October.
by Kathy Buckworth |
Contrary to popular belief, not all Canadians live in igloos … but some do. With a population of just over 30,000 (84% of whom are Inuit), Canada’s largest territory is accessible only by air or water. The geography and vast natural space make it a unique place to spend Thanksgiving. Arctic Kingdom, an arctic expedition company, offers a “Break the Ice
” getaway. Participants leave from Iqaluit, the capital city, and can experience the beauty of art and culture from local artisans. Dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and, yes, even igloo building are some of the activities available.
The annual Fogo Island Partridgeberry Harvest Festival
, features local foods and crafts. For those with luxurious tastes in both accommodations and food, the Fogo Island Inn
is hosting a special Thanksgiving event called “Chefs Come to the Edge.” Executive chef Murray McDonald has invited 4 world-class chefs to join him, and guests will be able to see, pick, dig and sample local delicacies. All foods prepared and served will be from Newfoundland’s northeastern coast. The 3-night weekend event includes a traditional Fogo Island boil-up, a 5-course gourmet supper prepared by the 5 chefs, a foraging outing and an afternoon at the festival.
Located about a 2-hour drive from Vancouver, Whistler
is making a name for itself for its celebration of Thanksgiving
. Just as the snow is starting to fall on the highest peaks, it’s time for the Turkey Sale, a long-anticipated event for skiers and snowboarders looking to pick up equipment at great prices. The spas and restaurants are open, and there are special events for the whole family. The prestigious Fairmont Chateau Whistler
fills the long weekend with treasure hunts for the kids, pumpkin carving, turkey dinners, a “Turkey Trot” (jog or walk) and even a zucchini-car race. The whole family can participate in the “Life of Pie” demonstration and learn how to make holiday pies with the hotel’s chefs.
Canada’s only televised Thanksgiving Day parade takes place in Kitchener-Waterloo during their famed and fabulous Oktoberfest
. Since 1969, this community has celebrated its very strong German roots, and its Oktoberfest is recognized as one of the world’s greatest outside of Germany. Beer and sauerkraut will take over the city. Parks Canada
goes further back in history as the Woodside National Historic Site presents a traditional Thanksgiving in the Victorian era. The house at Woodside — which was the childhood residence of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest-serving Canadian prime minister — is beautifully decorated in a harvest theme from 1891. Crafts and special activities will be offered, and the grounds are perfect for a brisk fall walk or outdoor picnic.
What better place to spend Canadian Thanksgiving than nestled in the magnificent Canadian Rockies? Jasper National Park
is the largest park in the mountain range, covering 4,200 square miles. The varied landscape includes mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers and valleys. With more than 600 miles of hiking trails, it’s the perfect place to work up a hearty appetite before bunking down in cozy quarters. Families love to stay at the Fairmont Cabins
year-round, but during Thanksgiving weekend, they can take part in pumpkin carving, family crafts, a scavenger hunt, wagon rides, family movies and, for the “big kids,” a wine tasting. Plenty to be thankful for.