How Canadian Thanksgiving Is Celebrated in Montreal

Holiday Turkey Dinner photographed in canada

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Canadians do Thanksgiving differently than their American neighbors. The autumnal holiday is still centered around a big feast, but is celebrated a month earlier (to commemorate the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1838). Unlike in the U.S., Thanksgiving in Canada is not synonymous with Christmas shopping or watching sports. In the province of Quebec—and Montreal, specifically—it's actually not even that popular. The French-speaking regions call it Action de Grâce (translated as "action of grace") and, unlike in the rest of the country, you probably won't find the locals baking pumpkin pies and cooking up turkeys.

Some Don't Even Celebrate

Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday of October. The public holiday calls for a long weekend in every province, but not everyone celebrates with a table topped with ham and yams. Quebec is especially casual about Thanksgiving, even enforcing looser regulations for commercial hours of operation than the rest of Canada on this day. Some people in Montreal, specifically—nicknamed "the Paris of North America" for its edgy European flavor—don't celebrate the holiday at all.

Those Who Do Celebrate Cook Different Foods

Those who do celebrate Action de Grâce don't do it in the same way as other Canadians, per se. While the rest of the country dines on turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy (similar to Thanksgiving fare in the U.S.), the dish of the day in Montreal is traditionally smoked mackerel. It's either folded into a warm potato salad, served in cakes with tartar sauce on the side, as a toast topper, or in the form of pâté, the true French way.

What Montrealers do have in common with the rest of the country, however, is that they love to eat, so regardless of what's served on Thanksgiving day, you're likely to find the locals spending their day off stocking up at the neighborhood farmers markets and making reservations at the best restaurants.

Celebrating Traditional Thanksgiving in Montreal

If it's turkey, stuffing, and the regular fixings you're looking for on Thanksgiving, you can find a few menus around the city catered to tourists on both the American and Canadian holidays. The Queen Elizabeth hotel has been known to offer the customary Turkey Day fare as well as Winnie's Pub and Fourquet Fourchette.

Fall festivals and the annual Great Pumpkin Ball at the Botanical Gardens give tourists a taste of their home flavors—pumpkin everything!—around the time of Canadian Thanksgiving. Alternatively, there are a host of Halloween celebrations and a few holiday light spectacles, seeing as Canadians are known to decorate for Christmas a whole two months ahead of time.

Though they may not be part of the customary cuisine here, apples and pumpkins grow rather well in the northeast, so it isn't difficult to find U-Pick farms around the city. In other words, finding North American Thanksgiving traditions around Montreal is, in fact, possible if you're willing to compromise and use your creativity.

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