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A Canadian talks turkey on American Thanksgiving




Luckily, turkey's don't have opposable thumbs, as this undated photo shows.
Luckily, turkey's don't have opposable thumbs, as this undated photo shows.
LAPL/ Security Pacific National Bank Collection

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As a Canadian living in Los Angeles, I get a lot of questions about my home and native land:

What do you call your States? (Provinces)

Why is your money so colorful? (Polymer)

And do you guys have Thanksgiving? Well, as a matter of fact, we do. We already did it. I think it was October 13th or something. 

I honestly don’t remember because pretty much all Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving share is a name. Canada’s version is not a $6 billion enterprise. It’s not really an enterprise at all. It's more like an earnest endeavor. The "ah, nice try" of national days off.

One of my friends, a composer named Steve London who moved to L.A. from Canada so long ago he’s apparently forgotten how to play the national anthem, says Canadian Thanksgiving is a lot like "Sunday, or a regular weekend. In the U.S., it's unbelievable. People just don't want you to be home alone. American Thanksgiving is way more fun."

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It's almost easier to define our Thanksgiving by what it's not.  We don't do the Pilgrim hats – didn't have them. We don't do the sniping at in-laws. Okay, we sort of do that, but it's really a year-round thing. Same goes for the beer drinking. It's not our worst week to travel – Christmas has that title. And yeah, there's football on TV, but as hockey’s our religion, it’s more of a white noise machine used to mask silent parental judgment. 

(Explorer Martin Frobisher, in what would become Canada, celebrated Thanksgiving for Not Freezing to Death in 1578)

So why are we so blasé about this holiday? One guess is that since we’ve been doing it since the 1500's, maybe we’re just over it.  Yes, we did it first in Canada, so if you want to make the argument that we do it on the wrong day, sorry. 

“In our family we celebrate both, says Alan Thicke, America’s favorite dad and Canadian icon.

(Alan Thicke and the cast of "Hope & Gloria," featuring future Off-Ramp intern Robert Garrova)

"But Canadians tend to be a little humbler, a little less ostentatious. We celebrate the settler, the Indians who kept us warm in beaver pelts and roasted turkeys or whatever the hell they did back then."

Thicke told me from the set of his new show, "Unusually Thicke," that the reason the holidays are so different comes down to the fundamental difference between our two countries. "They're doing things in a big splashy way that maximizes the opportunity for commercialization," he says. "All of the things America puts into its commercial exploitation, we tend not to do in Canada, we tend to think it’s a little gaudy, excessive, but that’s why they’re our big brother."                                          

There might also be a touch of that Canadian pride thing. We grow up with a flood of U.S. TV shows and holiday specials coming over the border, and we’ve seen the Norman Rockwell-esque depictions of what Hollywood says the holiday is supposed to look like. For example, you guys have "It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" where Snoopy dances with bunnies and people learn and share.

In Canada, we have the cartoon "Easter Fever," in which a bat auditions to replace the Easter Bunny, and flies into a tree.

YES, really. The Easter Bat.

So, maybe Canadian Thanksgiving is a just a chance to proclaim how different we are. Which is not to criticize the American version. The one you copied from us. I’ve never not been invited to several dinners, and it's moving to watch my friends, as they go around around the table naming things they're thankful for, reflect on how small their First World Problems really are.

So as your holiday approaches, and mine fades in the rearview, I will wish you all the best and hope that however we do or don’t celebrate on whichever day we so choose, we can all agree that gratitude is a gift, and whoever came up with Black Friday should be used as a welcome mat at Best Buy.