How Thanksgiving and the Harvest Season Go Hand-in-Hand

Each year most family households gather for Thanksgiving and partake in celebratory feasts. Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and togetherness accompanied by classic dishes like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

The Thanksgiving we know and love today has evolved into a holiday to spend time with family and friends, but its origins lie in celebrating a main component of agriculture—the harvest season.

The date of the very first Thanksgiving is often debated in North America.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the first recorded Thanksgiving to take place in North America was credited to Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew back in 1578 when they landed in Nunavut. Upon their disembarkment, Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew celebrated their kinship and safe arrival.[1]

The United States has their own Thanksgiving history. It is the well-known story of the Plymouth Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving in 1621 where Plymouth colonialists and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest feast. For the USA, this date marks their inaugural Thanksgiving.[2]

Following Sir Martin Frobisher’s unofficial Thanksgiving, was Samuel de Champlain’s rotational feast joined by local Mi’kmaq families on November 14, 1606 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia called “Order de Bon Temps” which translates to “Order of Good Cheer.” The feast was meant to combat scurvy which wiped out colonizers at Île Ste. Croix during the winters of 1604-05.[3]

Canada then officially declared the first Thanksgiving on November 6, 1879 which was established by the Protestant clergy.[4]

While there are many important dates attributed to the history of Thanksgiving, one thing that remains consistent is what the holiday itself represents—gratitude and celebrating the harvest season.

Throughout the year, from season to season, Canadian farmers ensure a sufficient food supply for people across the country through the agriculture cycle. In short, the cycle consists of crop selection, land preparation, seed selection, seed sowing, fertilizing, irrigation, crop growth, and finally, harvesting.

Serving as a prelude to the cold season, fall also indicates a time of harvest for farmers. Harvest season is one of the busiest times in the agriculture cycle, as farmers gather ripe fruits and vegetables.

So while we indulge in good company and savour our Thanksgiving feasts, let’s keep in mind all the hard work of farmers everywhere across Canada. Without their contributions, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same.


[1] Bonikowsky, L. (2014). The First Thanksgiving in North America. Retrieved October 06, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-first-thanksgiving-in-north-america-feature [2] Mills et al. (2019) Thanksgiving in Canada. Retrieved October 06, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day [3] Mills et al. (2019) Thanksgiving in Canada. Retrieved October 06, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day [4] Mills et al. (2019) Thanksgiving in Canada. Retrieved October 06, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day

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