Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
Thanksgiving In The US and Canada: Meaning and Differences. Photo KnowInsiders

What day is Thanksgiving 2021 in the US and Canada?

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2021 occurs on Thursday, November 25. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

This year, Thanksgiving takes place in the US on Thursday 25 November 2021.

Americans celebrate the holiday on the fourth Monday of November every year.

The day is also celebrated in Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, as that is when the Canadian harvest would be complete.

Therefore, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on Monday 11 October in 2021.

Is Thanksgiving the same date every year?

Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November since 1941.

This was a slight amendment to the past tradition of celebrating it on the last Thursday of November, because there are some years when there are five Thursdays in the month.

The original tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November dates back to 1863 when President Lincoln declared that all Americans should: ‘set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.’

How did Thanksgiving Start?

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival, with a huge feast being the centrepiece of celebrations.

The ‘First Thanksgiving’ is thought to originate from when the pilgrims hosted a celebratory feast after their first successful harvest in 1621.

The Wampanoag, a North American Indian tribe, called a truce with the pilgrims who had settled on their land in 1620.

The 1621 celebration is believed to be the first shared feast since an end to unrest between the two groups.

Thanksgiving in the US

Why does Thanksgiving in the US fall on the fourth Thursday of November?

If you’ve ever wondered why Thanksgiving is on a Thursday instead of a Friday, you aren’t alone. It seems obvious to grant everyone an automatic three-day weekend!

Surprisingly, this tradition dates back to Puritan times. In the colonies, Thanksgivings were held periodically to give thanks for a "blessing," according to Time. Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience, says that oftentimes these days of thanks fell on Thursdays. They avoided Fridays because it was a day of fasting in the Catholic Church—the Puritans probably wanted to avoid praying on a day holy to Catholics. And Saturdays weren't an option as they spent the day preparing for the Sabbath—which also left Sunday out of the question.

Thanksgiving Day significance in the US

Every year, the feast of Thanksgiving is conducted to honour the 'first' Thanksgiving in America, in 1619 in Virginia, and in 1621. At this time, the colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shared a meal with the Wampanoag Indians.

Therefore, the Thanksgiving tradition in America is as old as 1621 when the pilgrims performed thanksgiving for their initial bumper harvest in Plymouth Rock.

Some of the US Presidents including George Washington, John Adams and James Madison declared a day of thanks throughout their presidencies. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the celebration of a national Thanksgiving Day each November by the country.

READ MORE: Thanksgiving Day: 5 Weirdest Traditions Ever

What food was typical on Thanksgiving?

In the early days of Thanksgiving, Americans would spend days praying and feasting on the produce which was harvested, as a way of appreciating the successful year for crops and agriculture.

It is unlikely that the feast would have consisted of decadent desserts 400 years ago, instead they would have feasted on the likes of corn, venison and porridge as this was the most common and abundant harvest and game available.

What foods are served at a modern-day Thanksgiving dinner?

Today, Thanksgiving is synonymous with huge Turkey dinners, mash potatoes, macaroni cheese, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies for dessert.

Well-known writer Sarah Josepha Buell Hale - also known as the ‘Godmother of Thanksgiving’ - campaigned to have thanksgiving made into a national day of celebration, and according to Time Magazine, she published recipes of turkey dinners, stuffing and pumpkin pie in the 1800s.

Thanksgiving dinner is served up with Turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, stuffing and all the trimmings (Picture: Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving dinner is served up with Turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, stuffing and all the trimmings (Picture: Shutterstock)

Turkey is thought to be included in the dinner as it is native to North America, and its size makes it perfect for large feasts.

Pumpkins, which are ready to be picked between September and November are also native to North America, making them the perfect sweet pie filling to enjoy at Thanksgiving.

It also helps to use up the abundance of pumpkins which grow in time for Halloween, as many will ripen right around mid-November.

When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?

Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
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While Thanksgiving dinners and the traditions of the holiday date back to the 1600s, the it was President Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.

He marked it as a national celebration and all presidents who succeeded followed suit.

George W. Bush pets the pardoned turkey at the annual Pardoning event at the White House (Picture: Getty Images)

George W. Bush pets the pardoned turkey at the annual Pardoning event at the White House (Picture: Getty Images)

Then, in 1941, the Congress proclaimed it a national holiday and president of the day Franklin D. Roosevelt formalised the fourth Thursday of November the official holiday, meaning the actual date of Thanksgiving celebrations changes every year.

How do Americans celebrate nowadays?

Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
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Nowadays, thanksgiving is celebrated with parades, families travelling across states to be together and enjoy TV marathons and sumptuous dinners.

Despite the traditions beginning as a religious, inherited festival, all nationalities, ethnicity and religions join in the celebrations.

As well as the food, Americans travel the length and breadth of the states to be with family. People travel for this national holiday more so than for Christmas, according to an AAA survey.

According to the National World, the annual Macy’s parade is also televised, with over 20 million viewers watching the three hour long parade and over 40 million tuning in at some point during the procession.

Gift giving is spared from the occasion, as thanksgiving isn’t akin to the materialistic giving-to-receive commercialisation Christmas has become.

Thanksgiving in Canada

Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
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The Indigenous people of Canada had traditions of celebrating the fall harvest long before European settlers came to North America.

Sir Martin Frobisher, English explorer of Canada’s Northeast Coast, and his company were the first Europeans on record to celebrate a Thanksgiving in North America in 1578.

Their celebration would have been vaguely recognizable as Thanksgiving today, considering the menu featured uniquely North American food we’re all used to now: turkey, squash, and pumpkin.

Thanksgiving as a concept was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1750s.

Thanskgiving Canada Meaning

The first nationwide Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1859, long before it became an official nationwide holiday, according to Foodgressing.

It was organized at the request of Protestant clergy leaders.

They repurposed the idea from American Thanksgiving (which has roots as far back as 1777, as a nationwide day of prayer and gratitude).

In Canada, the originally stated purpose was similar: the “public and solemn” recognition of blessings from God.

Today, Thanksgiving in Canada can still often have ties to religion for some people but it’s mostly a day for families to gather, spend time together, and appreciate what they have.

Typical Traditions and Activities


While football isn’t as popular in Canada as it is in the US, Thanksgiving is still a big day for football.

The Canadian Football League holds the Thanksgiving Day Classic, which features 2 games played in a single afternoon.

A Gratitude Shout-Out

One unique part of Canadian Thanksgiving is that the government gives a special shout-out, directing citizens what to be thankful for each year.

It started as a simple thanks for an abundant harvest.

Historically, it’s included things like expressing gratitude for the end of war.

Now it can be simple or complicated, political or universal.

A Quiet Day with Family

Rather than taking to the city streets to celebrate with music, festivals, and shopping, Canadians tend to spend Thanksgiving quietly at home.

A Typical Canadian Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
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Canadian Thanksgiving dinner is typically wonderfully hearty.

Of course, you know the classics well: turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed vegetables, bread and rice stuffing, dinner rolls (not cornbread), squash, and brussels sprouts.

If a hardcore Chef is in charge of prepping your family meal, you might get to have ham and tourtiere, a pastry pie filled with potatoes.

Pumpkin pie is the most common dessert nationwide (a spicier version than its American counterpart).

Thanksgiving Canada 2021 Dinner Tips

Here are some tips on Thanksgiving dinner including charcuterie board tips, how to cook the perfect turkey like a Chef, and virtual holiday party ideas.

Here are some wine suggestions for Thanksgiving dinner 2021:

Pinot Noir




How Canadian Thanksgiving differs from American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving In The US and Canada
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That’s right! Canadian Thanksgiving happens a full month and a half before American Thanksgiving, on the second Monday in October (Monday, October 11, 2021).

Since the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday, its date has moved several times—from mid-week in April to a Thursday in November—until 1957, when the Canadian government officially declared that Thanksgiving would occur on the second Monday in October. This ensured that Thanksgiving and another Canadian holiday, Remembrance Day (November 11), would no longer overlap.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving lines up with Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States, which are also held on the second Monday in October.

Why do the US and Canada celebrate Thanksgiving Day on different dates?

While American Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year, in Canada they celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.

This is because the Canadian Thanksgiving is closely linked to the harvest festival we are more familiar with in the UK. So it makes sense for them to celebrate Thanksgiving in autumn – or in ‘the Fall’.

The first national Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated in the Province of Canada in 1859, although the Indigenous peoples of Canada had been celebrating the fall harvest long before that.

Whereas in the US, the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November dates back to 1863 when President Lincoln declared that all Americans should: ‘set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.’

In the US, the tradition of Thanksgiving is linked specifically to the Pilgrims and settling in America rather than a successful harvest in general.

Plus, although today is Thanksgiving in Canada, there won’t be a public holiday in the country as there will be in the US next month.

So even though Canada may have been celebrating Thanksgiving before their American neighbours, the United States go much larger in terms of their celebrations on the day.


Everyone seems to know the story of the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, but do you know how Canadian Thanksgiving came about? In fact, the first Canadian Thanksgiving may have even pre-dated the Pilgrims’ big meal.

According to Almanac, the tradition of Thanksgiving originated with the harvest festival—an autumnal celebration meant to show appreciation for the bountiful harvest of the season. However, Canadian Thanksgiving was originally less about celebrating the harvest and more about thanking God for keeping early explorers safe as they ventured into the New World.

In that sense of “thanks-giving,” the earliest report of such a dinner dates back to 1578, when English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew held a special meal to thank God for granting them safe passage through northern North America, into what is today the Canadian Territory of Nunavut.

The first Thanksgiving after Canadian Confederation didn’t happen until April 1872, when the holiday was observed to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.

Today, the tradition of Thanksgiving has come full circle, and it’s primarily seen as a time to gather the family, mark the start of autumn, and celebrate the good food of the season.


Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year in the United States—with huge parades, massive feasts, and football—but it’s decidedly lower key in Canada. Although the holiday is still widely celebrated in Canada and is a statutory holiday in most of the country*, Canadians’ approach to Thanksgiving is a bit more laid back.

Thanksgiving in Canada involves families coming together to eat turkey and celebrate the harvest, but relatives don’t tend to travel as far across the country like they might in the United States. And because the holiday takes place in early October, the weather is usually still suitable for a Thanksgiving Day hike or vacation—a tradition that many Canadians readily take part in ahead of the long winter. Plus, because the holiday falls on a Monday, the Thanksgiving feast may instead take place on Saturday or Sunday.

Although you might expect hockey to take the place of traditional Thanksgiving Day football, football is part of Thanksgiving tradition in Canada, too. Each year, the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic double header is broadcast nationwide, wherein four teams from the CFL (Canadian Football League) play for Thanksgiving glory!


Love them or hate them, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become a big part of the Thanksgiving season in the United States. In Canada, however, there’s no real post-Thanksgiving shopping craze, since Christmas is still so far off. This gives Canadians the chance to focus purely on celebrating the beauty of early October and the harvest!

That being said, no one can resist a good sale for long: in recent years, Canadian stores have started to participate in November’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too. Especially in 2020, with the surge in online shopping, retailers may seize any opportunity to promote consumer activity around the holidays.

*No Black Friday right after Canadian Thanksgiving

*When most people think of American Thanksgiving, they think of Black Friday, the all-out, no-holds-barred shopping craze.

*In keeping with its more laid-back reputation, Canada refrains from having a post-holiday shopping day.

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