Monday is Thanksgiving. On some calendars, especially the ones printed for the U.S. market, it's called Canadian Thanksgiving. It seems preposterous to call it Canadian Thanksgiving in Canada, notwithstanding our national predisposition to apologize for, well, everything. Sorry.
Being proudly Canadian — and no longer American — I formally declare jihad on calling it Canadian Thanksgiving, at least within the confines of Canada or in the company of other Canadians. Sorry if that offends you, but we simply have to get over this inferiority complex.
In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of bounty and successful harvest, on the second Monday in October. There are several good reasons for picking that date. We don't have another holiday in October. I know that is going to shock those of you who think Halloween is a holiday but just try convincing your employer of that.
Farmers, which is what most Canadians were when the whole Thanksgiving thing started, were smart enough to know if we celebrated it on, say, the second Tuesday in October, or late in November like they do in the U.S., any crops still standing in the field would probably be frozen and who wants frozen food for Thanksgiving? Well, come to think of it, almost everyone except those effete foodies who buy overpriced fresh turkeys.
By contrast, the U.S. celebrates American Thanksgiving — Hah! How do you like the way that feels? — the last Thursday in November. The last Thursday in November coincides with harvest time in Havana. By then, most of the corn in Iowa is in cans and most Iowans are indoors saying things like, "It's colder than a Kansas school teacher's heart outside." I'll leave it to you to imagine what people in Kansas say.
It's pretty easy to keep the two Thanksgivings straight, even without the geographic modifiers. Thanksgiving in Canada? October, three weeks-ish before Halloween. Thanksgiving in the U.S.? November, a month before Christmas. In most of Canada, it's the difference between wearing a baseball cap and a toque.
So why the confusion? Why the need for a nationalist modifier in our own country?
One of the primary reasons is, how shall I say this, the rich mythology of American Thanksgiving.
Americans got a head start on Canadians when it came to celebrating Thanksgiving. In what would someday become the U.S., the First Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621. It involved Pilgrims, iconic, short people in early American history with unusual hats and shoes and a way of walking that reminded people of penguins, from which their name was derived. The Pilgrims didn't call that celebratory — and for many of them, lifesaving — meal the First Thanksgiving. They didn't call it Thanksgiving at all. They called it dinner. Actually, they called it a feast, but I digress.
Canadians, by contrast, didn't celebrate Thanksgiving until 1872, by which time, Americans were celebrating not only Thanksgiving but the rebirth of their country, forged in the crucible of civil war. Canada, on the other hand, wasn't even a complete country then. And to further confuse matters, Canadians weren't actually celebrating Thanksgiving; they were celebrating the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness he'd been suffering. On top of that — you'll think I'm making this part up but I'm not — they celebrated it on April 15th, a day Americans were celebrating filing their income taxes.
Now it doesn't take a geographical genius to understand there is even less to harvest in Canada on April 15th than the second Tuesday in October, unless you can make a feast of river ice and fiddleheads. Obviously, within that context, it's easier to understand why Canadians are sheepish about horning in on what was clearly an American holiday and calling their version the exact same thing. Nevertheless...
Comparing the rather tepid beginnings of Canadian Thanksgiving to the rich cultural mythology of American Thanksgiving begins to shed some light on our seeming reluctance to make a big deal out of it. Consider, the main characters in early Canadian Thanksgiving were a sickly prince and farmers and dinner, as best as anyone knows for sure, consisted of cabbage, potatoes, fiddleheads and river ice.
The American Thanksgiving cast of characters alone is breathtaking. There's the starving Pilgrims, free at last to worship as they pleased. The generous — if naive —Indians, sharing their bounty, completely ignorant of what a raw deal they were about to get. And the food! You've got turkey, mashed potatoes, punkin pie and Indian corn. Indian corn wasn't like Niblets™ and it wasn't like corn on the cob. It was like hominy, which the Indians made by soaking rock-hard corn kernels in lime leftover from the Indian ceremony of Margarita, Queen of Tomorrow's Headache. The Pilgrims, having never heard of hominy, thought the Indians were offering hegemony and so took advantage of their generosity and drove them onto reservations from sea to shining sea. But that's a different history lesson.
In Whistler, the whole Thanksgiving confusion is heightened because Thanksgiving falls during a time of year we generally refer to as the shoulder season. It's the time everyone who can afford to gets out of town and goes somewhere it isn't raining all the time. As a result, many of us miss Thanksgiving because, for example, nobody eats turkey in Maui or Costa Rica in October.
But on this Thanksgiving week, I would like to say there are numerous things for which I am thankful. Here are just a few.
I'm thankful I live in the best town I can imagine to live in. I know it doesn't always seem that way but much of what I, and most of the rest of us, complain about here has more to do with our disappointment things aren't perfect. It seems if there is any place on Earth where we might get closer to that goal, this is it.
I'm thankful for the leadership we've enjoyed. No, seriously. Again, it hasn't been perfect but it's been a damn sight better than most places. I'm thankful for the people, elected and employed, who've done the heavy lifting. There are things I'd like to see you do better, cheaper and not at all but this place wouldn't be as good as it is without you.
I'm thankful I moved to Canada nearly four decades ago. I wish more than ever my former countrymen south of the border would emulate more of what we do well here.
I'm thankful for our imperfect healthcare system. I can no longer comprehend why there is such resistance to single-payer south of the border.
I'm thankful for everyone who reads this and continues to let me have the best job in town.
And I'm thankful working constructively on our problems instead of trying to scapegoat others for our woes.