Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, October 12th and the American Thanksgiving on November 26th are North American traditions based on the history of the settlers, explorers, pilgrims who came to (invaded) this continent centuries ago. The Canadian tradition dates back to 1578, while the American one to 1621. Both modern day traditions celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. For the sake of clarity, I looked up the definition of harvest:
… the season when crops are gathered from the fields or the activity of gathering crops.
As you can see, in this definition there is no mention of any animal, aquatic and/or land. However, William Bradford, Plymouth governor in the United States writes of the 1621 harvest:
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, …. were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. …and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached. And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion.
Bradford’s recounting is all about fish, fowl, wild turkey and venison with a mention of one plant crop, Indian corn. This is one account, as other settlers may have had more crops on which to survive, thereby sparing other species from being hunted. But for the purposes of this article, we can see that some and perhaps many American settlers did rely on the flesh of animals to survive the harsh winters.
The genesis of the Canadian Thanksgiving appears to come from a first sermon delivered to Frobisher when his ships and crews were spared devastation and death from dangerous ice and freak storms.
Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places …”. They celebrated Communion and “The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.
Years later, French settlers began celebrating Thanksgiving in a more traditional sense having “brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash”.
So here we are today, in “modern times” marking, with a lavish repast, our thankfulness for the bringing in of our own harvests. The main guest at this chowing down event is almost always a turkey, with ham and pork a close second, followed by squash, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and whipped cream, applesauce, ginger cake, apple pie, cranberry sauce. The list is endless.
Of course, like most consumers, we have nothing to do with hunting the game and bringing in the crops. We go to the grocery store for the “meat” and outside markets for the fruit and vegetables, where we ooh and ah over the colorful abundance piled in heaps for our perusal and purchase. Then we get cooking. And we put on a feast that leaves our bellies aching from overindulgence, too bloated to even consider moving about. When the leftover food is refrigerated and the kitchen cleaned up, the ginormous roaster goes to the back of the cupboard until Christmas when we haul it out to do the same thing again, maybe with different veggies and fruit.
And what does our over indulgence and insistence on eating the flesh of other species cost the poor traditional turkey? In the United States in 2013 46 MILLION turkeys were consumed at Thanksgiving. In Canada in 2014, 3.1 MILLION turkeys “graced” 🙁 👿 our dinner tables at Thanksgiving. Now in my view, one turkey is too many, but these numbers are staggering when one considers the life and fate of these turkeys who are wrongly defined as a necessary food for humans.
Consider this my friends: If you love the color, taste, smell, and feel of the the glorious plant foods at this time of the year, please make them and not the poor turkey and pig the main event at your thankfulness fest. Place your thankful radar on the people in your lives and on those who have much less. Looking for stuff to do? You could visit a farmed animal sanctuary, go for a walk in the woods, go apple picking, play a game of tag, touch football or Frisbee, dance in your living room with friends and family, spend time with a senior who is alone for the holidays.
If you are wondering what plant based dishes to make, here is a list of some of my favorites for this time of year.
4) Pumpkin and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (or Sweet Potato if your prefer)
6) Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies
Substitutions: Use 1 Tbsp ground flax seed whirred up in 3 Tbsp water to replace the egg.
Use coconut oil to replace the butter and add 2 Tbsp of water to whipped oil and sugar.
Annie’s Vegan View
Traditions can have their genesis in historical events that may or may not have anything to do with the our modern day celebrations.
Break out of the mold, do something new, do something fun, do something plant based and let us all leave the poor turkey alone.
May all beings be happy and free.