Muskoka Post Staff
Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. The Smithsonian Institute has noted that some First Nations “sought to insure a good harvest with dances and rituals.”
The European settlers brought with them a similar tradition of harvest celebrations, for which the symbol was the cornucopia, or horn of plenty, which dates back to European peasant societies.
The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in what is now Nunavut. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall.
This was 17 years before what is often recognized as the first American Thanksgiving — the Pilgrims’ celebration of their first harvest in Massachusetts in 1621, which was actually predated by several similar events in the New England colonies by at least 14 years. The prototypical Thanksgiving feast featuring the uniquely North American turkey, squash and pumpkin was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1750s. The citizens of Halifax commemorated the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 with a day of Thanksgiving, and Loyalists subsequently brought the celebration to other parts of the country.
With files from the Canadian Encyclopedia