Share Thanksgiving is a free, turkey-based matching service connecting new immigrant families with host families in Canada, where Thanksgiving is in October but is still celebrated with family gatherings and a large feast of turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. Now in its third year, Share Thanksgiving recently had 700 people participate in 10 cities across Canada.
Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, from the wave of European settlers in the 19th century to newcomers now coming from just about every country in the world. Residents of Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, speak more than 150 languages and nearly half were born outside of Canada. Through Share Thanksgiving, hosts help newcomers feel at home in a new place, and both hosts and guests have a unique opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures.
Of course, both hosts and guests may be nervous at first—that’s only natural when people are meeting for the first time. But the website explains that finding connections is easy.
“Once you break bread together, and start talking about your kids and their schools, hockey, what it’s like to see snow for the first time, what made a family pack their bags and step onto a plane to Canada, answering their questions: why turkeys, why cranberry sauce, what’s your family’s Canada story…you see how easy it is, and you find yourself stopping, and smiling, and realizing that you are simply living that cliché that we really are more similar than different.”
Many hosts and guests stay in touch afterwards and some families, who were guests, have even hosted families the next year.
Share Thanksgiving takes the values of social eating platforms, such as EatWith and Feastly, and adds a layer of civic engagement and community development. While there are programs to help newcomers integrate into Canadian society, sometimes a genuine, human interaction or conversation can go a long way in making someone feel welcome and supported. For many immigrant families participating in this dinner, this is the first time they’ve experienced Thanksgiving or Canadian culture. To have a family welcome them to their home and share this meal is an incredible thing.