Two hundred and sixty-nine

American Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Leftovers.  Gourds and fall leaves to decorate.  Family get-togethers.  Shopping (ok, not until the day after – or as some stores are doing this year, the night of).  These are the things that come to mind when I think of American Thanksgiving.  And if I know my American side of the family well, they will have an amazing spread of food and drinks to do it up right.

Thanksgiving in the United States is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of the date.  It became an annual tradition in 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving, although there had been irregular Thanksgiving celebrations before that.  It was set as a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November by law in 1941.

“The First Thanksgiving” is often mentioned during this time.  In the early 1620s, thanksgiving ceremonies were held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth after successful harvests or the end of a drought.  “The First Thanksgiving” thanked God for a successful voyage to the New World and lasted for three days, feeding 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.  “The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison,berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and theThree Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash.” (Wikipedia)

Modern traditions include: family time; big turkey dinners; often saying grace and thanking God (or whichever religion you believe) for the food on the table and the family companions; large parades; watching football (Thanksgiving Classic) or playing with family and friends in the yard (“Turkey Bowl”).  Government offices and the New York Stock Exchange are closed, as well as many other companies.

So Happy Turkey Day to my amazing family in the States!  I wish I could be there to celebrate with you.  I’m coming to visit next week, though, but I think that might be a little long to save the leftovers for…

Lindsay doing some hosting/modeling

A hint at what holiday I’ll be talking about tomorrow, check out my video on the Toronto Star website here.  If you happen to have a hard copy of the Toronto Star today, does the person on the front page of the “Canada’s Black Friday” section look familiar?

Two hundred and sixty-eight

Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day – Kinro Kansha no Hi 

Every 23rd of November, Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day to honour workers, commemorate labour and production, and give thanks for employment and the prosperity that working brings to the family.  Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern name for the ancient ritual Niiname Sai, or Harvest Festival.  The origin of Niiname Sai is thought to go back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago, although the first record is found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan) which is one of the oldest histories of Japan dating from 720.  It is said that the emperor would taste the first rice harvest  himself and dedicate the season’s fresh harvet to the gods.

After World War II, Japan signed the post-war constitution that was written by allied forces, and in 1948 the holiday developed into what we now know it as.  “The holiday allowed people to make thanks for their recently introduced workers’ rights, such as minimum wages, a cap on working hours and the formation of unions. It was also set to have people celebrate their new-found freedom, no longer being subjects beneath a ruling Emperor; in turn supporting the shift their country was going through, instead of fighting against it.” (

Holiday traditions include early grade elementary students creating drawings or “Thank You” cards for the holiday and giving them as gifts to local kōbans (police stations), hospitals or fire stations; a labour festival is held in the city of Nagano; schools and government offices are closed; and many people will visit their local shrine or temple and reflect on the issues surrounding peace and human rights.

Meiji Shrine in Harajuku - decorative displays of fresh produce in honor of the harvest festival - from

More information:


Two hundred and twenty-four

Quick post today: The honey debate

Is honey vegan?  In the strict sense, honey is an animal product and therefore not vegan.  In the 1994 manifesto of the British Vegan Society honey was prohibited from use, a “position consistent with the requirement for full (vegan) membership in the American Vegan Society since its inception in 1960.” (  However some vegans can be more lenient on insect products.  According to the Vegan Action website: “Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it’s not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables, since the harvesting and transportation of all vegetables involves many ‘collateral’ insect deaths.”

Jo Stepaniak from Grassroots Veganism describes why there is reason to avoid honey:

To collect honey, beekeepers must temporarily remove a number of the bees from their home. During the course of bee management and honey collection, even the most careful beekeeper cannot avoid inadvertently injuring, squashing, or otherwise killing some of the bees. Other commodities may be taken from the hive as well, including beeswax, honeycomb, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.

Bees are not harmed by the process of pollination — it is something they would do whether or not humans were involved or reaped any profit. If one were to stretch the point, using honey could, in a broad sense, be considered analogous to dairying. Furthermore, there is no reason to take honey from bees other than to sell it. Utilizing bees to pollinate crops in no way necessitates ravaging their hive.

I will avoid honey for the rest of this month, but I’m not sure I’m sold on giving it up forever…

Two hundred and twenty-three

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving – a holiday filled with yummy things to eat, celebrating family, and giving thanks for all the things we have.  A holiday that I thought would feel like I was missing something by not having turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes.  I was wrong.  I love my family.

The smell of the turkey is amazing.  The ham looks delicious.  It’s been too long since I’ve been able to go to a holiday family get-together because of my job at the pub.  It must have been Christmas since I last saw everyone.  Veganism is one of the topics of the day.  “Who’s party is this?”  my uncle teases me, as everyone has made accomodations for my new eating choices.  My mom had a separate bowl of mashed potatoes without the butter or milk.  My aunt had a side dish of turnip for me.  My other aunt who hosted even asked a friend of hers from work who is vegan for ideas and made a vegetable-casserole dish and a vegan rice dish with cashews for me to eat!

There were a few teasing moments and some debates on topics about veganism that I have yet to research fully (for example, if a vegan was dying of cancer and the only medicine that would save them was tested on animals, would they die or take the medicine?  My response to my brother who asked this question was “people do extraordinary things when they are dying in order to survive – like eat their brother if there was no other food!”). 

When it came time to eat, I did miss the traditional meal, but mine was delicious too.  Even though my family might not understand why people would give up gnawing the meat off the turkey bones or enjoying the creamy ice cream with their dessert, they had fun with the concept.  And the dessert I brought had everyone that tried it (besides my bratty brother) impressed.  I felt full and tired when I left and thankful for the wonderful family I have – just like any other Thanksgiving, vegan or not!

Here are the recipes again (and some photos) for the salad and cake I brought – Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad from PETA and the Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream Frosting from Oh She Glows, both of which I wrote about yesterday.  The gingerbread is to die for!  Just as good as a non-vegan version and I’d highly recommened it .