Canada Day: Representing Canadian Thanksgiving and Culture

By Anjeola Salami

October is the month of pumpkins, sweaters and gingerbread. It brings with it autumn, leaves and the realisation that Canadians also celebrate Turkey Day, one that is entirely different from their ginormous neighbours. Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year and is closely tied to harvest land traditions.

In honour of this day of thanks, the Maple-slinging Canadians on campus held a Canada Day celebration to highlight the many benefits of their culture. The Sundial Press interviewed three Canadians on their views on everything from beavers to visibility on campus.

TSP: In your opinion, what does it mean to be Canadian today? Do the stereotypes of Maple syrup, Mounties in red and beer-drinking hockey lovers’ still reflect Canadians?  

Logan Underwood: We are fairly patriotic. I think most people associate patriotism with America but Canada is a very patriotic country. The colour of our flag and hockey are still definitely big points of Canadian pride. Maple syrup we’re pretty proud of, there’s a company that has a monopoly on the industry so that’s pretty sketchy. We think of it as associated with Canada but really it’s this one company. Those are really our points of power, but I think now it’s that we have a cabinet of equal parts women and men and diversity, so we are really proud of our current political presence.

TSP: Do you think diversity could be a detriment in forming a strong national identity?

LU: No, because that’s what makes Canada so unique, is that with the confederation that we have, the provincial and federal governments, a cornerstone of what Canadian identity is is the bringing of your own culture to the table and the fact that Canada makes it very easy and is very accepting of that is really a large strength and something that we find unique about ourselves.

TSP: What can Canadians do to build visibility on a global scale and on campus?

LU: Well, I think our current Prime Minister is really doing a good job of being a social figure. He is young and he knows how to use social media and how to be a pretty face to carry our country. That is doing a lot for our international presence. On campus, events like this that Zak organised and the rest of the Canadians helped out with is a great way to start showing the community that we are proud to be Canadians and we are not just the 51st state.

***

TSP: In your opinion, what does it mean to be Canadian in today’s world?

Taryn Wilkie: Canada is just generally a nice country. It is built on multiculturalism. We embrace people regardless of where they are from and we celebrate that diversity.

TSP: Do you think diversity could be a detriment in forming a strong national identity?

TW: Canada has had to create its own sort of national identity and the things that it wants to be known for. It is a nice way to be able to choose how you want to be seen. Of course there is [the issue of] Quebec sovereignty and various provincial governments not always agreeing with the federal government on diversity, but at the same time we never really argue with each other, we just pretend we do. I think diversity is valuable.

TSP: How do you think Canadians on campus and around the world can improve the representation of Canada?

TW: Honestly events like this and being proud of who we are. I think we do not necessarily like to show off the fact that we are Canadian and proud because we are the smaller presence in North America. We have a lot to be proud of and I think we need to show that.

***

TSP: In your opinion, what does it mean to be Canadian in today’s world?

Aria Yousefi: I don’t think there is a clear definition; it is kind of acceptance and diversity. It is accepting others for who they are, regardless of where they are from. Apart from the native peoples, we recognise that we are not the first people there and we are all immigrants to Canada. We accept ourselves as Canadians basically when we just live there.

TSP: Do the stereotypes of Maple syrup, Beavers, Mounties in red and beer drinking hockey lovers’ still reflect Canadians?  

AY: I would say Mounties not so much, maybe in the Prairies. I think that is more a stereotype, something you might see in a gift shop or tourist destination. Maple syrup, yes, that is one thing I miss. Maple butter in Quebec is bomb!  Beavers, they are on our coins so I guess they are kind of relevant. I have only seen beaver dams, never an actual beaver. Hockey is very relevant though.

TSP: How do you think Canadians on campus and around the world can improve the representation of Canada?

AY: Main factor is differentiating us from the States. I think if we established ourselves as the Sweden of North America, being the quiet neighbour, doing the good deeds around the world. Putting our good deeds out there will definitely differentiate us from the states and give us more visibility around the world.

TSP: For those who do not know, can you quickly describe Canadian Thanksgiving?

AY: Apparently Canadian Thanksgiving is not as hard-core as it is in the States, but it is still a day to give thanks. We have turkey dinner, we all sit as a family and talk about what we are thankful for and blessed with for the year. It was founded in Canada as a way to give thanks to the harvest that has come, as opposed to the States where it’s about the pilgrims. It is definitely all about family and food.

***

Canada Day organiser Zak Vescera said to me: “Pierre Trudeau once said about Canada that we are like a mouse sleeping with the elephants.” This statement still rings true in terms of Canada’s relationship with its neighbours. Canadian culture takes a back burner even on a campus partly dedicated to studying North America in its entirety. However considering the current political and social climate in the United States of America, with each passing day Canada is building a worldwide reputation as a beacon of hope, inclusivity and, of course, Maple syrup.

Canadian Thanksgiving might not be as well known as in the States, but with a culture of diversity, a gender-balanced cabinet and a charismatic Prime Minister who looks poised to play the next Superman, we would say Canadians have a lot to be thankful for.

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