Purpose of this Blog is to provide information on:

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• Events homestay students participate in while being in the city

• English language tips for international students

Activities related to my novel about a group of international language students in the city
Profiles of Students

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thanksgiving in Vancouver: A Glorious Season

Text and Images by Wendy Bullen Stephenson

Thanksgiving is a popular celebration marking the time when farmers have brought in the harvest from the fields and finally have the leisure to rest and appreciate the “fruit of their labour.” This holiday is held on the second Monday of October as the air is becoming crisp and some of the leaves are turning red. In Vancouver it marks the beginning of autumn and the end of summer if that has not already become obvious. While Vancouver often has beautiful “Indian summers,” residents particularly appreciated this year’s extended season on Thanksgiving weekend.
International homestay students should note that Canadian Thanksgiving is different than American Thanksgiving, which comes six weeks later as a result of the longer growing period south of the border. The American holiday is held on the fourth Thursday of November, and it ushers in the beginning of the American, month-long Christmas season, which ends on Christmas Day. (Another difference between Canada and the United States: The Canadian Christmas season starts later but continues though New Year’s Day.)
For the majority of middle-class Canadians, Thanksgiving is one of the most enjoyable family holidays of the year because it features delicious food and the joy of getting together as family without a lot of stress. 
--> Canadian Thanksgiving dinner typically includes a turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy. This is served along with mashed potatoes and a variety of colourful vegetables usually including sweet potatoes or yams. The meal ends with pumpkin pie and whipped cream. There may also be some kind of appetizer, salad, wine, and perhaps a cheese plate.
Because turkeys of less than ten or twelve pounds are rarely available, there are usualluy lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. This depends on the number of relatives and friends that are guests at the Thanksgiving dinner. But the next day one can usually count on a complete, reheated second dinner with a taste of everything that was on the original menu. Subsequent meals include hot turkey sandwiches (turkey and gravy on toast), turkey stew, and turkey soup.
Because chickens are smaller, a few people eat a whole, baked chicken instead of turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But the fact that some vegetarians eat tofu “poultry,” suggests how important turkey is to the concept of Thanksgiving.
Some Canadians choose to celebrate on Sunday rather than Monday of the long weekend so that they have a day to “recover” from preparing the dinner before returning to work on Tuesday. In photographing at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach on Thanksgiving Monday, I could see that many people were not home cooking but were enjoying having Monday off as a day to slow down. 

People relax on Thanksgiving Monday 2012 in Vancouver where extended summer is evident in the still- brown grass.

Perhaps these volleyball players and others on the beach will be guests at a Thanksgiving dinner later in the day.

As these beach photographs and the opening images show, Canadian Thanksgiving is definitely is not associated with Christmas!

While there are many traditional aspects to Thanksgiving dinner, some creative cooks add unique, individual touches. An appetizer can be omitted or be anything the cook chooses. In this case savoury sausage is served alongside humous, crackers, and raw cauliflower.

Traditionally, salad can be a simple green one or an interesting variation such as this one featuring antique tomatoes and grated white and purple beet.

Some of my homestay students have never had a whole turkey cooked at home. This is because turkeys are not common in their culture or they don’t have ovens that are large enough. The process, therefore, has been fascinating to these students. One of my homestay students took this photograph of the turkey coming out of the oven. Many Thanksgiving dinners later, I have never managed to update this photograph of a turkey because, always being in a panic to get everything on the table while still hot, I forget about stopping to get out my camera.

Even when members of my family are preparing the dinner, as they did this year, they flatter me in asking me to make the pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

I hope that you, as a homestay student in Canada during Thanksgiving, have or have had a chance to experience a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. In my novel Vancouver Memories: My Year Abroad, Japanese student Erika and her Canadian boyfriend share in a family Thanksgiving dinner at her homestay. To see how she experiences this, read the second segment of October Diary Entries 1-8.

Photograph of turkey courtesy of Gabriela Hauser, Switzerland