Dec 2, 2003 Volume 3 Issue 24a
A Second ThanksGiving for 2003
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.
It is for everyone. With no fences or boundaries or limits. So, when I found some wonderful " news" about ThanksGiving in messages from email@example.com and BeliefnetDailyInspiration@partner.beliefnet.com last week on ThanksGiving Day, I immediately "borrowed" them to share with you.
Oh, and " yes" , I spell ThanksGiving with a double CAP letter ... the " T" and " G" . Why? So I remember it has two parts;
...to giveThanks, and
... it is all aboutGiving.
Is Thanksgiving strictly an American holiday?
Not exactly -- While we generally think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but there is actually a long tradition of harvest-time celebrations and thanksgiving celebrations. Every autumn, the ancient Greeks enjoyed a three-day festival to honor Demeter, the goddess of corn and grains.
The Romans had a similar celebration in which they honored Ceres, the goddess of corn (the word "cereal" is derived from Ceres). The Roman celebration included music, parades, games, sports and a thanksgiving feast, much like modern Thanksgiving. The ancient Chinese held a harvest festival called Chung Ch'ui to celebrate the full moon. And in the British Isles, the major Thanksgiving forerunner was a harvest festival called Lammas Day, named for the Old English words for loaf and mass.
How did Thanksgiving come about in the US?
Modern Thanksgiving has its direct origins in American history. On September 6, 1620, 110 Puritans (we now call them the Pilgrims) fleeing religious persecution set sail on a ship called the Mayflower and arrived in the New World after 65 days. They settled in a town called Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims' first winter was so harsh that fewer than fifty of the group survived the season.
On March 16, 1621, an Abnaki Indian named Samoset entered the settlement. He welcomed the Pilgrims in English, and the next day returned with another Native American named Squanto, who spoke English well. With Squanto's help, the Pilgrims were able to survive in the New World. When the October harvest was rich, the Pilgrim governor, William Bradford, decided to have a celebratory feast, and invited the native American neighbors to take part. The Native Americans brought food as well, and essentially became the first Thanksgiving.
Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
While many view the first Thanksgiving as an example of the possibility of great respect and cooperation between two different cultures, others see it as a symbol of the colonists' persecution of the Native Americans. Sadly, the friendly spirit of the first Thanksgiving was one small exception in a long history of bloodshed between native tribes and European settlers.
Today, many Americans reflect on this aspect of the nation's history. In 1970, some Native Americans have began observing a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving day, to remember the violence and discrimination suffered by their ancestors. The Day of Mourning is observed by gathering at the top of "Coles Hill," which overlooks Plymouth Rock.
When did Thanksgiving become a holiday?
In 1817, New York state officially adopted a yearly Thanksgiving day, and some other states followed suit. Most celebrated the day in November, and a few observed it in December. In the mid 1800s, a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale mounted a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln did just that, proclaiming that Thanksgiving would be the last day in November. After the Civil War, Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Initially, many Southerners saw this as the Northerners forcing their particular traditions on the whole country. But eventually, the holiday caught on everywhere.
Where does the cornucopia come from?
One of the most prominent Thanksgiving symbols, the cornucopia, actually dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally "horn of plenty." In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is a severed goat's horn, enchanted by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
Harvest Thanksgiving Celebrations Around the World
reprinted with permission of the
For as long as recorded history, Indonesia has held festivals in gratitude for the rice harvest. In Java, and in Bali two colorful festivals are held each year. Sri Lanka has had a well-defined Harvest Thanksgiving for many centuries, as have India, Japan, Thailand, and others. Many tribal expressions of gratitude are like this ancient prayer: "The year has come around again, great Lord of our land--never can we thank you for your good deeds and all your blessings."
The island peoples express in poetry and song their own special sense of gratitude. The Harvest Thanksgiving of the German-speaking countries is observed in Protestant and Catholic churches with special decorations on the altar (Ernte Dankfest). In the Low Countries, a special time of gratitude has developed since World War II on New Year's Eve. England's "Harvest Home" has been celebrated since about 1843. Developed out of ancient traditions, it has spread over the English-speaking world. Before Columbus, the Native American said, "the plant has its nourishment from the earth, and its limbs go up this way, in praise of its Maker...like the limbs of a tree." Spanish, French, and Portuguese explorers brought their own sense of Eucharistic Thanksgiving.
The English settlers frequently said, like Bradford at Plymouth, "being thus arrived in good harbor, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven." The people of the Americas (long called the "New World") comprise all the cultures of the world and draw a special sense of thanksgiving from all these cultures.
All Humanity Celebrates: A Declaration of World Thanksgiving, started in 1982, is signed each year by 12 different leaders from different religions and continents. In 1983, it was presented by Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic leaders to the Secretary-General of the U.N. for the peoples of the world.
Countries With Officially Designated Thanksgiving Days
BRAZIL A National Day of Thanksgiving (Dia Nacional de Acao de Gracas) became official in 1949 as a public, official, and solemn glorification of the name of God. The Chief of State and others celebrate this holiday in the Cathedral of Brasilia with a solemn Te Deum on the fourth Thursday of November.
CANADA A general Thanksgiving (Fete de Grace) and Harvest Home Festival was first observed in 1879. It is officially proclaimed yearly and celebrated on the second Monday in October.
JAPAN The ancient festival by the Imperial Court is associated with rice offerings to both heavenly and earthly deities. It has been associated with national rest from labor and is now officially called the "Labor Thanksgiving Day," celebrated on November 23.
SOUTH KOREA & NORTH KOREA Since ancient times, a Harvest Thanksgiving known as "Chusok" has been observed with special religious rites in gratitude for ancestors and with prayers for their souls. Following the traditional Korean calendar, it is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in both the north and south.
LIBERIA In 1870, the legislature recognized "Liberia's dependence on the great Arbiter of events and established a Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the many good and loving kindnesses shown toward us as a people." Its observation occurs on the first Thursday in November.
SWITZERLAND The Federal Day of Thanks, Penance, and Prayer (Jeune federal, Der Eidgenossische Dank-, Buss-, und Bettag) is an outgrowth of days established by religious and secular authorities since 1650. The modern observance, since 1832, on the third Sunday in September is a quiet day to review the good things received.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA From the earliest tribes and settlements, and from all the nations of the world, many different traditions became by designation of the Continental Congress, in 1777, the first National Thanksgiving. The holiday is symbolized by George Washington's final Thanksgiving, which ended "impart all the blessings we possess or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind."
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