The history of Thanksgiving


First aired on Homestretch (03/10/12)

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This long weekend, many Canadian families will get together and sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. But what are the origins of the annual holiday in Canada? Food writer Anita Stewart stopped by CBC's Homestretch to shed a little light on the subject.

The first Thanksgiving Day in Canada following Confederation was observed on April 15, 1872, to celebrate the Prince of Wales's recovery from a serious illness. For the next several decades, the date shifted around: between 1879 and 1898 it was observed in November, and between 1899 and 1907 it took place in October, usually on a Thursday, according to Heritage Canada.

It wasn't until the 1930s that the second Monday of October was appointed the annual Thanksgiving Day, and in 1957, a proclamation was issued making the holiday permanent.
But despite the holiday's inconsistent history of scheduling and changing food trends throughout the years, Stewart says that the traditional Thanksgiving meal has remained relatively similar to the early days.

"No matter how avant garde we are, the table is still laden with ingredients from the pantry of the First Nations, in roasted turkey, often stuffed with a mixture that might include wild rice, a side dish of cranberry sauce, possibly sweetened with maple syrup or summer honey, whipped potatoes, of course — I love my mine with crushed garlic and buttermilk — some buttered corn on or off the cob, and absolutely you have to have pumpkin pie with dollops of whipped cream."

Stewart, however, likes to employ one little trick to make her pumpkin pie really pop with flavour: she uses roasted butternut squash instead. The sweet and nutty-tasting fruit (yes, it's technically a fruit!) is "denser than most pie pumpkins and often more flavourful."

Want to try making her butternut squash pie? The recipe is available here.

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