Every one needs something to be thankful for over this particular holiday weekend – beyond the fact you're not the turkey, of course – so we decided to provide some trivia that will make you grateful you're Canadian, and give you lots to talk about over the festive dinner table.
For starters, did you know the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada – fully 43 years before the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock?
English explorer Sir Marting Frobisher hosted the celebration in 1578 to give thanks for his safe arrival in the New World – in Newfoundland, to be precise. The Canadian Thanksgiving is actually more closely tied to European tradition than to American influence, as harvest celebrations were comonplace throughout Europe in the month of October.
Another factor in the Canadian version taking place so much earlier than those of our southern neighbours is the Canadian climate, where winter comes sooner, thus dictating an October, rather than a November, harvest time.
Declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving is a critical time for Canada's 548 turkey farmers, who sold five million turkeys at Thanksgiving on 2008. Thanksgiving and Christmas account for 71 per cent of total annual whole turkey sales in this country, and last year, the per capita turkey consumption was 4.5 kg. (Statistics courtesy the Turkey Farmers of Canada).
But there's more to learn about our festive feathered fowl:
- Turkeys have heart attacks. When the U.S. Air Force was conducting test runs and breaking the sound barrier, fields of turkeys would drop dead;
- Fossil evidence shows that turkeys roamed the Americas 10 million years ago;
- A spooked turkey can run at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. While domesticated turkeys cannot fly, wild ones can fly for short bursts at speeds between 65 and 90 kilometres per hour;
- Benjamin Franklin eschewed the bald eagle as America's national bird, passionately advocating for a turkey instead;
- Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere;
- The famous bourbon, "Wild Turkey", got its name from an annual Wild Turkey hunting trip, during which a distillery executive brought along some booze for his friends to consume - they liked it so much, they asked him the following year to bring some more of that "Wild Turkey bourbon" and the rest is, as they say, history.