Giving thanks to a deity or Creator for bounties bestowed has been practiced by humans for millenia and has a long and colourful history. In the past it was often associated with the offering of gifts and sacrifices, depending on cultures and traditions.
For many years Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations were held on various dates in October or November. Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year, but the date was initially a Thursday in November. However, many Canadians considered this too late because of our generally cold climate at that time of year. Consequently, the date of the celebration changed several times until, in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October.
The Early Canadiana Online collection and the Canadiana Discovery Portal have numerous references to Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada including many involving native Canadians with a very long history.
Included here is a small selection of material about Thanksgiving day available through the two Canadiana portals.
This article is from the The Canadian dry goods review [Vol. 8, no. 10 (Oct. 1898)
and consists of views of Canadian merchants of that time about the best date to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The following reference is taken from Production and Thrift, (1916) a book about Canadian agriculture during World War I, from the library of Agriculture Canada. It gives thanks to the strong contribution of Canadian farmers to Great Britain during World War I.
Turkey has been the traditional North American Thanksgiving dish for many years. Below is a recipe for boned turkey, taken from "The Cook's Own Book" (anonymous) 1852.
The text shown below is taken from a book about John Jewett, the Captive of Nootka (1835). The book recounts the 2 1/2 years Jewett was prisoner of the native people of Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, from 1803 to 1805. Among many detailed descriptions of the lives and customs of these natives are several references to their Thanksgiving celebrations.
Below is an image from the play "The Day before Thanksgiving" taken from "Holiday Plays" a book of plays for children by Virginia Olcott (1925).
Following is a cartoon from the book "Souvenir of Thanksgiving Day" (1896)
Below is an image from a collection held by the Glenbow Museum entitled "Decorations for Thanksgiving in school, Red Deer Lake, Alberta." The date is between 1900 and 1903. (Glenbow Archives)