6 Differences Between Canadian and American Thanksgiving

By The Second City | Nov 23, 2015

Canada and the U.S. certainly have much in common. We both enjoy polluting The Great Lakes, eating hamburgers, and of course, unequal wealth distribution.

But one area where we differ in a big way is Thanksgiving. Growing up in the small town of Urog, Ontario and studying theology at Primrose Academy in the hamlet of Ugog, Illinois, I am pretty much an expert in the differences between our countries’ approach to giving thanks.

Time of Year

Here in Canada, we typically celebrate Thanksgiving in October, while our southern cousins start the party in November. Scholars claim that Canada’s earlier date is reflection of our northern geography. Cooler weather means an earlier harvest!

Food We Enjoy

Of course, both countries enjoy a nice turkey on the big day. But Canada’s stronger ties to England are apparent in dishes such as Brussels sprouts and Yorkshire pudding. Conversely, southern areas of the United States incorporate regional food, such as cornbread and collard greens.

Choosing of Sacrificial Townsperson

Traditionally, the sacrificial townsperson is drawn by random lottery in Canada, while in the United States, there is a formal voting process.

Also, in Canada the S.T. is dressed in colorful crimson robes in the weeks prior to the ceremony, while in the U.S.A. they wear muted earth colors. But they are not required to take any shifts digging the abomination pit. Pretty sweet!

Preparation of Sacrificial Townsperson

Contrasting their somber dress, the United States heaps honors and privilege onto the sacrificial townsperson, allowing them unfettered after-hours access to the public library and an open tab at any participating The Keg restaurant.

Here in Canada, the S.T. spends most of their time leading up to “the orgy of fire” with friends and family, sleeping nights in the garage or barn so their deep sobs will not disturb the elderly.

Size of Sacrificial Bonfire

Let me tell you, the first time I spent Thanksgiving in the States, I was amazed at the size of their sacrificial bonfire! Anything burnable is welcome, from handfuls of specially-prepared wood shavings to straight-up squirts of kerosene.

In Canada, we limit burnable material to hand-collected wood, although we do allow children to cook marshmallows in the early hours before the vast inferno becomes untenable.

Prayer of Thanks

What would Thanksgiving be without gratitude? The final prayer to Urog the Ember Beast is usually short and to the point for both countries. Many are haunted by the pleas and bargaining tactics of the sacrificial townperson.

One key difference is that Americans typically line up to sprinkle piglet blood on the sigil of Urog, while in Canada, a simple “amen” is sufficient.

There you have it! Canada and America might not see eye to eye on everything, but at least we can agree that it’s every isolated community’s duty to feed the vast hunger of Urog each year with the life force of their loved ones.

Now pass that stuffing! Happy Thanksgiving!


Joel Buxton (@JoelBuxton) is a writer, stand-up comedian and sketch performer with the multiple Canadian Comedy Award-winning troupe The Sketchersons.

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