Each year Norval and Union Presbyterian churches celebrated a date close to Thanksgiving with a Fowl Supper, or the equivalent of today’s chicken dinner at many churches. These evenings were not only great fundraisers for the church, but times of socialization. A program of entertainment would be put together for the benefit of attendees.
Since the 1930s we have celebrated Canadian Thanksgivings on the second Monday of October, a date close to the end of our field harvests. Before that, however, the date was not always specific.
According to “Get to know Thanksgiving” by Canadian Living Magazine, “From 1879 to 1920, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated annually in October or November, to celebrate ‘the blessings of an abundant harvest’. From 1921 to 1930, Thanksgiving was combined with Armistice Day (now Remembrance Day), which was observed on the Monday of the week of November 11.”
Combining the two events for one holiday may have been useful, but it did not give much respect to veterans who had served in The Great War. Armistice Day had begun on the second Monday in November, 1919 in the British Empire. According to the Canadian War Museum, Canadian Parliament passed an Armistice Day bill for ceremonies to be held on the first Monday during the week of November 11 beginning in 1921, and it was combined with Thanksgiving for a double-billed holiday. So during the 1920s, Canadians probably gave more thought to the Thanksgiving portion of the holiday weekend than for Armistice Day. But in truth, it wasn’t that many years after the first world war, and the whole concept of “remembrance” as we may consider it today was very young. There was little public demonstration: veterans, families and friends would gather at local memorials (many communities were only beginning to erect cenotaphs in the 1920s) or perhaps in church, but the observance was modest.
The Canadian War Museum also notes that by 1928 prominent citizens – many of whom were veterans – voiced their request for a stronger recognition of Armistice Day and separate from Thanksgiving. In 1931 the federal government decided that Armistice, or Remembrance Day, would be held on November 11 (the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, as we know it). Remembrance Day would “emphasize the memory of fallen soldiers instead of the political and military events leading to victory in the First World War.”
Thanksgiving would be our thanks for an abundant harvest to tide us through the winter to come.
“After the War: Remembrance Day.” Canada and the First World War: Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of History. n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.
Tancock, Kat. “Get to Know Thanksgiving.” Canadian Living. Transcontinental Media G.P., 2014. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.
The Georgetown Herald (dates in articles shown).
Rubio, Mary and Elizabeth Waterston. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery (Volumes III and IV). Toronto: Oxford UP. Print.