How Do The French Celebrate Thanksgiving? They Don't

But French -- and All -- Canadians Do Observe Turkey Day

Thanksgiving in France
Grace Clementine / Getty Images Prestige.

The French do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but Canadians -- including French Canadians -- do observe a slightly different version of the holiday. Thanksgiving is called "le jour de l'Action de Grâce" in Canada and is celebrated on the second Monday in October. The tradition of Thanksgiving comes from the early British and French settlers.

Canadian Thanksgiving History

Just as the dates of the holiday are different in the U.S. and Canada, the origins of Thanksgiving are also different.

Thanksgiving originated much earlier in Canada than in the U.S. After English explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in 1578, "He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World," according to KidzWorld. This was 43 years before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Mass. 

Thanksgiving has been an official holiday in Canada since Nov. 6, 1879, when the Canadian parliament passed a measure declaring a national day of Thanksgiving, but the date jumped around quite a bit over the years. It wasn't until Jan. 31, 1957, that the governor general of Canada issued a proclamation stating: "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed -- to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October," according to Kalie Kelch in the book, "Grab Your Boarding Pass."

Thanksgiving Traditions

Though the origins of the holiday diverge, Thanksgiving traditions are very similar in the U.S. and Canada: Families and friends gather for a huge meal featuring seasonal local produce: roast turkey and stuffing, corn (bread and ears), sweet potatoes, nuts and pumpkin.

At one point during the meal, it's traditional for people to say what they are thankful for that year. It is also customary to invite friends over -- it's a feast, after all, and there is plenty of food to share. People also enjoy watching American Football that day. There are parades. And, as in the U.S., on the day after Canadian Thanksgiving, the biggest sale of the season -- Black Friday -- takes place.

French Canadian Thanksgiving Vocabulary

Should you find yourself visiting Quebec in the fall -- the French-speaking province of Canada -- you can impress your Canadian friends by displaying your knowledge of Thanksgiving terms. Following are seasonal terms, and their French translations.

ThanksgivingLe Jour de l'Action de Grâce, 
A ColonyUne colonie
A PilgrimUn pèlerin
Native AmericanUn indien, une indienne
A tribeUne tribu
To sharePartager
FallL'automne
NovemberNovembre
The harvestLa récolte
A paradeUne parade
To ThankRemercier, dire "merci"
A traditionUne tradition
TraditionallyTraditionnellement

French Thanksgiving Food Vocabulary

If you're lucky enough to be invited to a Thanksgiving meal in Canada, these terms will help you discuss the foods that generally are served for the Turkey Day feast.

A mealUn repas
A feastUn festin
FoodLa nourriture
Turkey (food)Une dinde
Turkey (live animal)Un dindon
CornLe maïs (pronounced ma/iss)
Corn earUn épis de maïs
CornbreadDu pain de maïs
PumpkinUne citrouille, un potiron
CranberryUne canneberge (Canada), une airelle (France)
GravyDe la sauce au jus de viande
Mashed PotatoesDe la purée
PieUne tarte (sweet), une tourte (savory)
NutsLes noix
PecansLes noix de pécan
Sweet PotatoesDes patates douces
StuffingDe la farce
MarshmallowsDe la guimauve
Green beansDes haricots verts
Seasonal produceLes produits de saison
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Your Citation
Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "How Do The French Celebrate Thanksgiving? They Don't." ThoughtCo, Nov. 5, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-do-the-french-celebrate-thanksgiving-they-dont-1369349. Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. (2016, November 5). How Do The French Celebrate Thanksgiving? They Don't. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-the-french-celebrate-thanksgiving-they-dont-1369349 Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "How Do The French Celebrate Thanksgiving? They Don't." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-the-french-celebrate-thanksgiving-they-dont-1369349 (accessed October 20, 2017).