Ever wondered what’s the connection between Thanksgiving and turkeys?
Growing up, and to this day, eating turkey has been a tradition at Thanksgiving. Once again this year I’ll be eating turkey on Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve never known why so many people eat turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie during this annual holiday, only that it’s just what we do.
I suspect it’s because of the celebration of the harvest. After all, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.
The Las Vegas Guardian Express article called “Canadian Thanksgiving a Unique Holiday” said the very first Thanksgiving in North America was celebrated in 1578 in Newfoundland, organized by English explorer of the uncharted northern territories Martin Frobisher.
He organized it as a way to be thankful for what they accomplished in a short time as a religious Thanksgiving. He was reunited with lost fleet because of winter storms at Frobisher Bay and the survivors celebrated.
Thanksgiving changed in the next four centuries in Canada, but the feasts and day of thanks continued. The next official celebration was in April 1872 in honour of the Prince of Wales.
After that, Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving pretty much every year. The Canadian Encyclopedia website said in 1879 Canadian Parliament proclaimed a “day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” That year it was celebrated on Nov. 6.
However, Thanksgiving was celebrated on later and earlier dates in the years to follow. It said on Jan. 31, 1957, the Canadian government decided to observe the holiday on the second Monday in October because Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day were celebrated in the same week.
So why turkey? According to About.com the wild turkey is native to North America and a staple of the native diet. It said in the 16th century, Spaniards imported turkey to Europe.
But according to the Hoolinet website, although many historians claim the turkey was native to the Americas, the wild turkey (Predatoris Terriblus) has been found in archaeological digs in central Asia dating back 50,000 years.
It’s hard to know what to believe and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Turkey is a staple for many Canadians for Thanksgiving and we’ll enjoy it just the same.
And we’ll enjoy a lot of it. The Turkey Farmers of Canada website said over the course of the entire year in 2008, Canadians ate 150.5 million kilograms of turkey with a 4.5 pounds per capita consumption. There are also 548 turkey farmers in Canada.
That year Canadian households ate 9.6 million whole turkeys. Out of those 9.6 million turkeys, 2.7 million of them were purchased for Thanksgiving. That’s 28 per cent of turkey sales. For the 2008 Thanksgiving, five million or 39 per cent of Canadian households bought turkey and turkey products.
In total, 71 per cent of whole turkey sales occurred for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What can I say? A lot of us love our turkeys. I’m going to gobble up my fair share this weekend and give thanks for all I am lucky enough to have.
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.