Thanksgiving Day in Canada is an official national holiday that is observed in all Canadian provinces and territories. The first country's first Thanksgiving took place in 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher safely returned to present-day Nunavut after a hazardous attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Thanksgiving in Canada became a national holiday in 1879, and in 1957, it was fixed to occur on the second Monday in October of every year. In 2020, it will take place on Monday, October 12.
On Thanksgiving, most Canadians get a paid day off work to gather with family and friends to celebrate the year's harvest. The event is celebrated by partaking in a feeding frenzy that includes turkey, stuffing, squash, potatoes, and pie. Regional menu variations include wild game, salmon, and desserts such as Nanaimo bars. Watching televised Canadian Football League games is also a tradition.
Thanksgiving Across Canada
The Saturday and Sunday leading up to Thanksgiving is business as usual, but on Thanksgiving Monday, most businesses, stores, and services shut down. That said, Canada is a big country, and in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the holiday is considered optional.
Exceptions apply across the country, especially in Quebec where Thanksgiving (action de grâce) is not celebrated in the same way by all residents and many shops and services remain open. It's always a good idea to call ahead to ensure a business or service is operating before heading out.
Thanksgiving in Canada is also a time when families get together but without the same level of hoopla as their neighbors in the United States. Canadians do not typically stage parades and Thanksgiving is not a particularly busy travel weekend.
Historically, Canada did not engage in the "Black Friday" shopping madness found in the United States, but the consumer extravaganza is now common at major shopping malls and online.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day
As a federal holiday, schools are out of session for the day and all government offices are closed down. Most of the state-run liquor stores are also closed for the day, so you'll need to plan in advance if you're heading to a Canadian Thanksgiving Day party and want to bring a beverage.
- Federal government offices
- Most local government offices, including passport offices and post offices. Some post offices in the private sector do not close (such as those within malls, supermarkets, or drugstores that remain open for the holiday).
- Most libraries
- Most childcare facilities
- Most government-run beer and liquor outlets (except in Quebec)
- Most supermarkets and some convenience stores
- Many restaurants outside of city centers
Open on Thanksgiving Day
If you're visiting any of Canada's largest cities, most establishments that cater to customers remain open for the three-day weekend, including tourist attractions and restaurants. However, it isn't guaranteed and you should always confirm your destination's schedule before heading out.
- Most tourist attractions, as well as restaurants and stores located in tourist destinations, stay open.
- Many malls in major cities stay open, especially in tourist destinations. For example, the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto and the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton stay open on Thanksgiving Day.
- Quebec SAQ—the provincial liquor store—stores remain open except for those located in a mall that is closed for the holiday.
- Much public transportation, such as the TTC, operates on a holiday schedule.
- Some supermarket and drugstore chains keep a few stores open at key locations.