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What is Thanksgiving Really?
Thanksgiving is the one holiday that EVERYONE celebrates in some way or form - at least in the United States. Thanksgiving seems to be the holiday without any ties to religion or faith but how did Thanksgiving come to be?
The First Thanksgiving
It is said that in 1619, before the first 'official' Thanksgiving, Captain John Woodlief knelt to pray and give public thanks (in front of the other British settlers) to God for giving them travelling mercies and a safe arrival in the Americas.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest. This was a sign of cooperation between the English and the Native Americans. For years, Native Americans had been celebrating the harvest and during that time, they were used to giving thanks - by way of festivals and ceremonial dances - for crops.
In 1863, there was a declaration of Thanksgiving - that it be celebrated annually in November.
Other 'Thanksgiving' Celebrations - In Greece
In the festival of Thesmosphoria (held every autumn) the Greeks of the ancient world honoured Demeter, the goddess of grains. Each day of the festival was celebrated in a different manner:
Day 1: The married women built leafy shelters and made furniture out of plants.
Day 2: The married women fasted.
Day 3: Offerings of seed corn, cakes, fruit and pig was given to the goddess Demeter and a huge feast was held in her honour.
Like the Greek, the Romans honoured their Goddess of grains, Ceres, in the autumn season. Their festival was called Cerelia and occurred during the 4th day of October every year. The Romans gave the first fruits as well as a pig sacrifice to Ceres and during their celebration, there were parades, sports, music and a thanksgiving feast.
The festival of Chung Ch'ui was celebrated in ancient China when the full moon fell on the 15th day of the 8th month. On that day, the Chinese baked moon cakes to honour the 'birthday' of the moon.
There was a feast held featuring roasted pig, moon cakes and fruits. the Ancient Chinese believed that flowers would fall from the moon on the 3rd day of the festival. It was said that whoever witnessed the falling flowers would have good luck.
Chung Ch'ui was also for the purpose of giving thanks for China's victory over their enemies. Moon cakes that were once distributed contained hidden messages that revealed the time for attack, so when the invaders came the families were prepared.
The festival of Min - the god of vegetation and fertility - was held in the springtime (their season for harvest). A parade and a great feast was held during the festival and the Pharaoh often participated. An interesting fact: while the Egyptians harvested corn, they cried, pretending to be in mourning to deceive a spirit believed to dwell in the corn. The spirit was said to become angry when farmers cut down the corn.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada. Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest in their country. In old Europe, farmers gathered to toast a successful harvest and in 1957, Canada adopted this tradition.
The Canadian Thanksgiving meal is similar to the American Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes are served as well as a cornucopia placed in the center of the table. Still, the overall celebration in Canada is not as huge as in America. In America, Thanksgiving is the largest occasion of the year.
In America Today
As previously mentioned, Thanksgiving is the year's largest holiday in the United States - even larger than Christmas. Families and friends travel far and wide to gather in each other's company for the Thanksgiving weekend.
The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday and is one of the largest shopping holidays - if not THE largest - in America. It is equivalent to Boxing Day in other countries such as Canada and England.
Some people go as far as dressing the part for their Thanksgiving feasts; dressing as pilgrims, English settlers or Native Americans. Most of all, people gain weight during the Thanksgiving feasts, stuffing their faces with delicious turkey and mashed potato. Just thinking about it is making me hungry.
I hope you've enjoyed reading and possibly learned something new. Thanks for reading!
Info Taken From
- Thanksgiving on the Net - The History of Thanksgiving and its Celebrations
- First Thanksgiving - Primary Sources
- Thanksgiving History.com Articles, Video, Pictures and Facts
In 1621, Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest feast, acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations.