In 1879, parliament set Thanksgiving on Nov. 6, but it was not universally observed. Pioneers of British heritage were more likely to celebrate their traditional Home Harvest festival on the final day of harvest. Pioneers from the United States were more accustomed to celebrating American Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.
Then, in 1918, parliament declared a new holiday on Nov. 11 to mark the end of the First World War. Since there couldn't be two holidays within a week, the two were combined. Veterans weren't happy to share their solemn day of remembrance with a harvest celebration. So, in 1931, the two holidays were separated. However, it was not until 1957 that parliament officially set Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.
This posed a problem for some prairie families, according to What's to Eat: Entrees in Canadian Food History. The issue was this: the Thanksgiving turkey, which was raised on the farm, was not yet sufficiently plump enough for dinner. For that reason, many families had a ham or a roast instead. The turkey lived to see another dinner – possibly Christmas.
Whenever the day, Thanksgiving included vegetables fresh from the garden, like this cabbage salad. This dish is better the second day, so make it ahead.
4-5 cups shredded cabbage
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp celery seed
Combine cabbage and onions in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the oil and return to boil. Stir in celery seed. Pour the mixture onto the cabbage and toss well. Refrigerate until dinnertime.
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This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix)