• Oven roasted turkey, part of the typical modern-day meal at Thanksgiving

    Oven roasted turkey, part of the typical modern-day meal at Thanksgiving. (Photo: M. Rehemtulla/Creative Commons)

It seems like Canadians have been giving thanks on the second weekend of October for ages. But that wasn’t always the case.

Thanksgiving and Armistice Day used to be celebrated on the same weekend in November. The first time the two holidays were held together was Nov. 7, 1921.

However, the duel celebrations were unpopular. The public felt that celebrating Thanksgiving, with its food, sports and other amusements, didn’t correspond with remembering soldiers who died at war and having solemn ceremonies at memorials and cenotaphs.

Despite the grumblings, Armistice Day and Thanksgiving continued together for another 10 years, held on the Monday before Nov. 11. Although it wasn’t an official holiday, many rebelled by celebrating Armistice Day on Nov. 11, and large crowds attended at local cenotaphs and on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.

In 1925, the Canadian Legion in Winnipeg began a campaign to have Nov. 11 declared the official Armistice Day.

Finally in 1931, the government passed legislation moving Thanksgiving Day to October and declaring Nov. 11, the anniversary of Armistice Day, as a national military memorial day. The name of the day was changed to Remembrance Day to put the emphasis on remembering soldiers who gave their lives, rather than on the Armistice in the First World War, which was more of a political event.

Beginning Nov. 11, 1931, Remembrance Day was born.

A Thanksgiving service, attended by Canadian troops, held in the Cambrai Cathedral on Oct. 13, 1918. (Photo: Canadian Expeditionary Force albums - Unknown photographer)