Thanksgiving Traditions

By Bill Eagle

We all love Thanksgiving, the smell of turkey, the taste of yams and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time and giving thanks is a good practice for us all. Thanksgiving is one of the six major holidays in the USA and I love celebrating it.

Most people know, or think they know the story of the first Thanksgiving feast. The Plymouth Colony settlers were having a rough time, almost half of them died during their first winter. That spring the survivors were helped by Squanto (a native American and former English slave) to plant food and survive. In fall they had a successful harvest and declared a time for Thanksgiving. They invited neighboring Native American tribes to join them in their celebration and they had a wonderful time.

My understanding is that the Native Americans actually supplied most of the food. The food consisted of fish, clams, lobster, mussels, venison, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash, onions, maize, beans, grains, ducks, geese, swans and possibly wild turkey.  I say "possibly" because history gives no specific mention of wild turkey during this feast. Pilgrims called all wild fowl "turkey." America's first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days. (In our house the leftovers will last about a week).

Thanksgiving is not just an American tradition. A day of thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada, Germany, Liberia, Norfolk Island, the Netherlands, and in a number of Asian countries. 

The Jews have celebrated  a time of thanksgiving for about 3000 years. They call their Thanksgiving Sukkoth. A Sukkoth is a three-sided hut or tabernacle that the Jews allegedly took with them during their 40 years in the wilderness.. Their present festival lasts for about eight or nine days, (A much longer span of time than my turkey leftovers last). During "Sukkoth" the Jews gave thanks to God for all their many blessings. 

The Ancient Greeks had a harvest festival called Thesmosphoria in honor of their God of Agriculture. They would hold a feast and have a celebration.

The Romans celebrated Cerelia, dedicated to Ceres, their Goddess of Grain. It was held in October each year, with feasts, music, parades, and games as a celebration of thanksgiving for their harvest.

In Ancient Egypt harvest took place in spring. The Egyptians celebrated their festival in honor of their God of vegetation and fertility. They would also celebrate with feasting, music, dancing and sports.

We too celebrate with sports and that is why football on Thanksgiving Day is an integral part of our American culture.

Giving thanks is a good practice for us all. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to give thanks to our creator, not just for harvest but also for the blessings that we as Americans enjoy.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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