I grew up in Canada and, as a child, I felt let down by Thanksgiving. Apart from the pumpkin pie and the good china, the dinner wasn’t that different from any other, and the holiday itself was a dowdy sister to its U.S. counterpart. Santa didn’t wave to us at the at the finale of the Macy’s parade, and retailers didn’t tantalize us with sales so spectacular we’d want to spend Thanksgiving night standing in line outside a shopping mall.
Canadian Thanksgiving was just a three-day, stress-free weekend. Which makes it an ideal holiday for anyone who doesn’t particularly like — or downright hates — holidays. Now that I’ve spent most of my adult life in the U.S., I’ve come to miss Canada’s quieter version of Turkey Day.
Here are 5 reasons you might fall in love with Canadian Thanksgiving, too.
Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday of October — Oct. 14 this year — so most workers get three days off. Some employees in the U.S. get four-day weekends for Thanksgiving, but it usually requires taking a vacation day. And some retail employees don’t even get the full Thursday off now that major chains such as Best Buy, WalMart and Target start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening.
2. Easy travel
Long distance travel in the U.S. increases 54 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend, making it the busiest travel time of the year, according to the Department of Transportation. Canadians travel most heavily on the days leading up to Christmas. Travel is less hectic at Thanksgiving and those who do travel often leave the country.
Sean Rollinson, marketing manager of Escapes.ca, says he books a lot of flights and vacation deals over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, but that many travelers are less concerned about getting to Grandma’s house than they are about taking an exciting mini-vacation.
He says singles often book trips to Las Vegas and Cancun, and families who “want to experience turkey dinner minus Grandma’s cheek pinches” will meet up at an all-inclusive resort for the weekend. Older couples who don’t want deal with screaming kids travel to adult-only getaways such as Secrets Resorts in Mexico, Rollinson said. And, because mid-October is generally a quiet travel period, Canadians can take advantage of off-season rates.
3. Longer celebration time
In the U.S., Thanksgiving is a one-day holiday. This puts a lot of stress on extended families, particularly if each wants to claim the holiday as their own. Some people have commitments to eat three turkey dinners on a single day.
In Canada, although the holiday is officially on a Monday, there’s informal agreement that the holiday can be celebrated on any or all of the three days. Adult children are less likely to feel like a turkey wishbone — pulled in all directions by parents, in-laws, step-parents and exes. If you want to hang out with your family for Thanksgiving, you can do so with less guilt and less heartburn in Canada.
4. No post-holiday sales
There are no Black Friday sales in Canada so there’s no urgent reason to do anything but relax over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. If you want to shop, shop. But there’s no pressure to snag the season’s greatest bargains on flat-screen TVs and laptops. The biggest shopping day in Canada is Boxing Day, an official holiday that falls on Dec. 26.
5. No must-see TV
Yes, you can watch a parade on Canadian Thanksgiving — the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade is broadcast on CTV — and you can watch football — the Thanksgiving Classic. But I don’t know anyone who plans their holiday meal around these events. You could just as easily watch “House of Cards” on Netflix or pick up a movie at Redbox and no one would think you were a Thanksgiving spoil sport.
There are, in fact, no “musts” for celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a drawback for those who like holidays rich in tradition and jam-packed with festivities. But it’s a bonus for anyone who wants to stuff himself with turkey and mashed potatoes and then got on with the rest of his weekend.
Sean Rollinson, marketing manager, Escapes.ca; interview September 7, 2013
U.S. Department of Transportation