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4 Big Differences Between Canadian and American Thanksgiving

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When you're sitting down for Turkey Day dinner, wow your relatives with factoids about a few of the differences between Canadian and American Thanksgiving.

1. Canada probably did it first.


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There's a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving: friends and family, leftovers, a long weekend ... and don't forget Canada! English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew first got their thanks on in Newfoundland in 1578, which is widely accepted at the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America (there is, however, some debate as to when the first Thanksgiving actually occurred, and where). The story goes that Frobisher and company hadn't found the Northwest Passage to the Orient like they'd been hoping to, but still wanted to celebrate a safe arrival in the New World.

The frequently cited first American Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, occurred some 43 years later in 1621. We don't need to tell you the American version is a bit more controversial. The Pilgrims gathered to celebrate God's bounty and a good harvest. The Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive—many of whom were killed or exploited, in turn—may or may not have been invited to the party.

2. Canada still celebrates it first.

Since 1957, Canadian Thanksgiving—which the natives simply call Thanksgiving—has occurred on the second Monday of October. But it hasn't always been that way. Years after the first celebration, the holiday occurred sporadically to coincide with larger events, differing by region. And if these events didn't occur in autumn? No big deal. In 1816, the end of the war between Great Britain and France inspired Thanksgiving in both Lower and Upper Canada in May and June, respectively. Then in 1921, the country tried to schedule a two-for-one so that Armistice Day and Thanksgiving would both be celebrated the Monday of the week of November 11. Thanksgiving's a lot less confusing now that Canada's one big tribe and can always count on the same annual three-day weekend.

Back in the U.S., Franklin D. Roosevelt is still regarded as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century. He helped America recover from the Great Depression and fight a world war. He taught us that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But no one talks about how FDR ruffled everyone's turkey feathers in 1939. Another beloved president, one Abraham Lincoln, first declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The president was given the power to choose the date of the holiday each year, but the last Thursday of November became the standard. Holidays were difficult to celebrate during the Great Depression. Many businesses worried that most Americans wouldn't spend money Christmas shopping if Thanksgiving fell on the last day, or the fifth Thursday, of the month, as it did in 1939. So Roosevelt moved the holiday one week earlier, to the dismay of many Americans. Calendars were out-of-date. School schedules were disrupted. And retailers still complained that they were losing income. Some states decided to ignore the presidential decision and celebrate Thanksgiving on the usual day; others followed the president. For the next two years, Roosevelt made Thanksgiving the second to last Thursday of the month. But no one likes to fight over turkey dinner. In 1941, Congress officially declared Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday of November every year. Let them eat pie!

3. Holiday, Legislate!


Thanksgiving's a statutory holiday in most of Canada, meaning that it's celebrated nationally, but can also be legislated at the provincial and territorial levels. But in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Thanksgiving's optional. Most Canadians still get the day off, but others get paid overtime for working. One word of advice: Tell them thank you.

Thanksgiving's a federal holiday in the U.S., so most Americans get a day off to stuff themselves—and then a long weekend to reheat leftovers. Still, many others, from hospital employees to store clerks to restaurant workers, hold down the fort over the holiday. Another word of advice: Tell them thank you.

4. There's no Black Friday in the Great White North.


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Historically, Canada's biggest shopping day of the year is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. Imagine Black Friday, but with thousands of people returning disappointing gifts. There are sales and lines and yes, sometimes even a boxing match in the aisles. (Not everyone in Canada can be friendly.) While Black Friday has picked up in Canada, it isn't nearly the mess that it is in the United States.

Each year, American retailers sell massive amounts of inventory on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and the much less ominous sounding Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. (The latter term was coined back in 2005. Can you believe it's only been seven years?) The two events are some of the biggest shopping days of the year. This year, the most crazy, err, dedicated shoppers are spending their vacation days camping out in front of stores up to a week before Black Friday. Hey, it's a free country.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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This Just In
A Connecticut Farm Purchased by Mark Twain for His Daughter, Jean Clemens, Is Up for Sale
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Mark Twain—whose wit was matched only by his wanderlust—had many homes throughout his life: a small frame house in Hannibal, Missouri; a Victorian mansion in Hartford, Connecticut; and "Stormfield," a country estate in Redding, Connecticut, just to name a few. Now, the Connecticut Post reports that a farm adjacent to Stormfield, purchased in 1909 by Twain for his daughter, Jean Clemens, is up for sale.

“Jean’s Farm,” as Twain nicknamed the home, is priced at $1,850,000. In addition to a storied literary legacy, the refurbished five-bedroom estate has a saltwater swimming pool, a movie theater, and a children’s play area. It sits on nearly 19 acres of land, making the property “well-sized for a gentleman's farm, for horses, or as a hobby farm,” according to its real estate listing. There’s also a fish pond and a 19th-century barn with an extra apartment.

While scenic, Jean’s Farm has a bittersweet backstory: Jean Clemens, who had epilepsy, enjoyed the pastoral property for only a short time before passing away at the age of 29. She lived in a sanitarium before moving to Stormfield in April 1909, where she served as her father's secretary and housekeeper and made daily trips to her farm. On December 24, 1909, Jean died at Stormfield after suffering a seizure in a bathtub. Twain, himself, would die several months later, on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74.

Twain sold Jean’s Farm after his daughter’s death, and used the proceeds to fund a library in Redding, today called the Mark Twain Library. But despite losing a child, Twain’s years at Stormfield—his very last home—weren’t entirely colored by tragedy. “Although Twain only spent two years here [from 1908 to 1910], it was an important time in the writer’s life,” historian Brent Colely told The Wall Street Journal. “Twain was always having guests over, including his close friend Helen Keller, hosting almost 181 people for visits in the first six months alone, according to guestbooks and notations.”

Check out some photos of Jean’s Farm below, courtesy of TopTenRealEstateDeals.com:

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

 Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Connecticut Post]

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History
The Dangerous History Behind the Word 'Deadline'
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Nowadays, the word deadline is used all but exclusively to refer to a date or time by which something must be accomplished. But over the centuries, the term has been used in a number of different contexts: Among early 20th-century printers, for instance, a deadline was a line marked on a cylindrical press outside of which text would be illegible, while the Oxford English Dictionary has unearthed a reference to an angler’s “dead-line” dating from the mid-1800s referring to a weighted fishing line that does not move in the water.

The modern sense of deadline, however, may be influenced by a much more dangerous meaning. It originated during the Civil War, and came to prominence during the much-hyped trial of an infamous Swiss-born Confederate leader named Henry Wirz.

Wirz was born Heinrich Hartmann Wirz in Zürich in 1823. In his early twenties, a court forced him to leave Zürich for 12 years after he failed to repay borrowed money, and in 1848 he left first for Russia before eventually settling in America. After working a string of jobs at several spots around the country, Wirz married a woman named Elizabeth Wolf in 1854 and moved to Louisiana. After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he enlisted as a private in the Fourth Louisiana Infantry.

One of Wirz’s first engagements in the war was the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. He was badly wounded in the fighting, losing the use of his right arm, and when he returned to his unit a few weeks later he was promoted to the rank of captain in recognition of his bravery and service. From there, Wirz rose through the ranks to become an adjutant to John H. Winder, an experienced and high-ranking general overseeing the treatment of Confederate deserters and Union prisoners. In 1864, Wirz was put in control of Camp Sumter, a newly-established internment camp for Union soldiers located near Andersonville in rural Georgia.

Over the remaining 14 months of the war, Camp Sumter grew to become one of the largest prisoner of war camps in the entire Confederacy. At its peak, it held more than 30,000 Union prisoners, all of whom shared an enormous 16.5-acre open-air paddock—conditions inside of which were notoriously grim. Disease and malnutrition were rife, and a lack of clean water, warm clothing, and adequate sanitation led to the deaths of many of the camp’s prisoners. Of the 45,000 Union prisoners held in the Camp at one time or another, it is estimated that almost a third succumbed to Sumter’s squalid and inhumane conditions.

In his defense, Wirz later claimed to have had little real control over the conditions in the camp, and it is certainly true that the day-to-day running of Camp Sumter was a disorganized affair divided among numerous different parties. Incompetence, rather than malice, may have been the cause of many of the camp's horrors.

Execution of Captain Henry Wirtz (i.e. Wirz), C.S.A, adjusting the rope
Execution of Captain Henry Wirz in 1865

In 1865, the war came to an end and Wirz was arrested in Andersonville. He was eventually sent to Washington, and held in the Old Capitol Prison to await trial before a military commission. That fall, more than 150 witnesses—including one of Wirz’s own prison staff and several former prisoners—took to the stand and gave testimony. Many provided damning evidence of Wirz’s harsh treatment of the prisoners (although historians now think some of these testimonies were exaggerated). As accounts of him withholding food and other supplies from prisoners found to have committed even minor offenses were relayed in the press—and as the full extent of the terrible conditions inside Camp Sumter became public—Wirz emerged as a much-vilified symbol of the camp’s inhumane treatment of its Union prisoners.

One of most damning examples of his inhumanity was his implementation of what became known as the Camp’s dead line:

Wirz, still wickedly pursuing his evil purpose, did establish and cause to be designated within the prison enclosure … a “dead line,” being a line around the inner face of the stockade or wall enclosing said prison, and about twenty feet distant and within said stockade; and so established said dead line, which was in many places an imaginary line, in many other places marked by insecure and shifting strips of [boards nailed] upon the tops of small and insecure stakes or posts, he … instructed the prison guard stationed around the top of said stockade to fire upon and kill any of the prisoners aforesaid who might touch, fall upon, pass over or under or across the said “dead line” ...

—Report of the Secretary of War, October 1865

In other words, this deadliest of all deadlines was a line Wirz implemented just inside the inner wall of Camp Sumter. Any prisoner wandering beyond the line would immediately be killed.

Stories like this were all the evidence the court needed: Wirz was found guilty of violating the rights of wartime prisoners, and was hanged on the morning of November 10, 1865.

Widespread press reports of Wirz’s trial and the horrors of Camp Sumter soon led to the word deadline being popularized, and eventually it passed into everyday use—thankfully in a less severe sense.

By the early 20th century, the word’s military connotations had all but disappeared and the familiar meaning of the deadlines we meet—or miss—today emerged by the early 1920s.

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