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Giving Thanks

Here in Canada we are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. We don’t have the stories of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, but we do have a wonderful tradition of giving thanks in this country as well. I didn’t know much about the history of our Thanksgiving, but in a quick search on the web I found these fascinating details:

  • Some historians say that the first North American Thanksgiving was held in 1578 as explorer Martin Frobisher, who with a fleet of ships was searching for the Northwest Passage, gave thanks and celebrated Communion after a particularly harrowing voyage from Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island and back again.
  • French settlers who crossed the ocean with Samuel de Champlain and arrived safely in Canada with him in 1604, celebrated with a feast of Thanksgiving. They formed the Order of Good Cheer (don’t you love that name?) and held weekly feasts, during which they shared food with their First Nations neighbours.
  • Thanksgiving Days were celebrated to commemorate important events, such as the end of the Seven Years War (1763), the end of the War of 1812, the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion (1838), and even the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness in 1872.
  • It wasn’t until 1957 that the second Monday in October was officially designated Thanksgiving Day by Parliament.

Sir Martin Frobisher, the first to celebrate Thanksgiving on North American soil. Apparently after returning to Frobisher Bay after the harrowing voyage in which one ship was lost and another returned to Europe, the chaplain, Robert Wolfall, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places.” Photo : Portrait of Sir Martin Frobisher, by Cornelis Ketel, on Wikicommons

In doing the research on my books, I discovered that the Celtic Christian monks of the early Middle Ages excelled at thanksgiving. Their lives were founded upon praise, celebration and giving thanks. Every day they would recite Psalms 148-150, the praise psalms, which all begin and end with “Praise the Lord”. These words etched their way into their hearts and minds. They would find it very odd indeed to be “thankful” without that thankfulness spilling over into specific thanks to God, the Creator and Sustainer of all.

I don’t want to distract you for too long from your turkey feasts and family celebrations, so I will leave you with this ancient Celtic Christian prayer, recorded in the Carmina Gadelica. Whether you are in Canada or not, why not take some time this weekend to say this prayer slowly, with gratitude for all God has given you? We are truly blessed to live where we do and in the time in which we live.

Thanks to thee, 0 God, that I have risen to-day,
To the rising of this life itself;
May it be to Thine own glory, 0 God of every gift,
And to the glory of my soul likewise.

0 great God, aid Thou my soul
With the aiding of Thine own mercy ;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,
And the source of every sin to forsake ;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
May each ill haze clear from my soul, 0 God.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!






  1. Delightful! As a Christian and as someone who lives in the Boston area near the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Rock, I am happy to learn of other Thanksgiving traditions. Many thanks for posting this. 🙂

    1. L.A. Smith says:

      You are very welcome! And thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment, I appreciate it.

  2. sdorman says:

    bountiful, informative!

  3. Reblogged this on A Pilgrim in Narnia and commented:
    Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians. Author L.A. Smith has a nice little blog that puts Thanksgiving in Canadian and European context that I hope you enjoy. We in Canada are celebrating this weekend because, frankly, if we waited until late November there would be nothing of the harvest left to eat! We are having beautiful weather here in PEI but I’ve had to protect tomatoes from frost three times already!
    The ovens are hot across the country and we are settling down to feast today or tomorrow. See you next on Tuesday!

    1. L.A. Smith says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Brenton! Hope you enjoyed the feast! We got to eat two, so I am waddling around in post-turkey satisfaction today….

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I’m delighted Brenton drew my attention to this – thank you! It’s always interesting to learn more about Canadian holidays! (It’s also interesting to follow harvest feasts through different climes and times – I’ve read of Pentecost as a harvest feast as to at least part of its origins, and was interested to read that the name ‘Lammas’ is contracted from ‘Hlaf-mas’ (‘Loaf/bread-Mass’), celebrating the wheat harvest in England.)

    And thank you for the fine prayer from Carmina Gadelica! The name rang a bell, and I see that volumes I and II in both the 1900 and 1928 editions, and volume III from 1940, are all scanned in the Internet Archive, inviting us to browse for more such gems!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you (and your Canadian readers)!

    1. L.A. Smith says:

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it! The Carmina is a rich treasure trove, indeed. It’s a fascinating mix of history and spirituality. I love dipping in it here and there – any time spent there is always rewarding to me. I hope you find it the same.

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