For 20 years, Culver Academies students, faculty, and staff with Canadian connections, including Head of Schools Jim and Mary Power this year, have gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.
Wellness instructor and hockey coach Dan Davidge has been handling the event since its inception when he invited two Canadian students over to his house to celebrate. For a number of years, the event switched between the Dan and Liney Davidge and Mike and Ann Norton households until the numbers started becoming too large for one household to handle, Davidge said.
That is when Kelsi Carr ’14 suggested moving the dinner to campus and turning it into a cultural exchange event in 2012. Davidge talked with Academic Dean Kevin MacNeil about the concept and a new tradition was born. Now, Canadian students invite a guest to the dinner, which includes a brief history of the holiday. The Powers came to Culver after spending 12 years at the Upper Canada College in Toronto.
The number of Canadian students has climbed as high as the mid-20s recently, Davidge said, but it has decreased slightly to 19 this school year. One Canadian student is put in charge of contacting the others and taking reservations for the dinner. The menu is includes the Thanksgiving staples: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, salad, and pumpkin pie.
The Canadian celebration can be traced back to 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher held a celebration thanking God for surviving the long journey from England to Newfoundland. Frobisher was searching for the Northwest Passage and his crossing of the Atlantic Ocean was fraught with peril, from icebergs to severe storms.
When the French settlers and explorers arrived later, Samuel de Champlain copied the harvest festivals celebrated by the First Nations tribes. He called the celebration “The Order of Good Cheer,” which took place on Nov. 14, 1606. Thanksgiving was officially declared a national holiday in 1879, but the October date wasn’t officially set by the Canadian Parliament until 1957.
And, like its American cousin, the Canadian holiday includes two professional football games. One Canadian Football League game featured the Calgary Stampeders (with wide receiver Juwan Brescacin ’11) defeating the Toronto Argonauts, 48-20.