Harvest festivals are probably as old as agriculture itself — celebrating the fall’s bountiful harvest that replaced our hunter-gatherer food sources sometime in the far distant past.
Here in America, our harvest festival is known as Thanksgiving, and we celebrate it each year on the fourth Thursday of November.
Virtually every school child can tell you the story of the first Thanksgiving held at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1621, a time when the Pilgrims and the Native Americans celebrated their bountiful harvest together for the first time.
William Bradford, the governor at the time, arranged a festival that lasted three days — including turkeys, geese, ducks, venison, cod, bass, corn, barley and cornbread.
All 13 colonies celebrated Thanksgiving in October 1777 to commemorate the victory over the British at Saratoga.
U.S. President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and Abraham Lincoln also declared the last day of November should be a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, but Congress didn’t make it an official national holiday until 1941.
Ah, the holidays finally are upon us, and while retailers push the beginning of the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier each year, the arrival of Thanksgiving marks the traditional start of the holiday season.
Yes, on Thanksgiving Day family and friends will travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to join in the festivities that often include turkey and stuffing (91 percent of Americans eat Turkey on Thanksgiving), ham, corn, sweet potatoes, cranberries, rolls, pumpkin pies and a host of other family favorites.
On the West Coast, Dungeness crab is becoming a popular Thanksgiving food, but don’t forget none other than Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the country’s national bird. Luckily the eagle won out.
Many families use their time together at Thanksgiving to begin preparations for the Christmas holiday that is only a short month away. They make plans for Christmas, and some families even set up gift exchanges for the upcoming holiday.
It shouldn’t be surprising that our neighboring countries don’t share our Thanksgiving holiday traditions. Our Thanksgiving holiday is, after all, uniquely American. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada, and the Canadians call our Thanksgiving — are you ready for this — “Yanksgiving.”
According to most sources, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Mexico because it’s an American holiday, but some sources say the American influence is creeping in, especially in Northern Mexico and in areas where there are many Americans.
The newspaper office will close for Thanksgiving, and the employees will gather with their family and friends to celebrate the holiday. We hope you, your family, your loved ones and your friends also will gather on this day to share and give thanks as the holiday season begins in earnest. We should not forget this is a day set aside so we may thank God for all the gifts He has given us.
May God bless us one and all during this festive, holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving, Lassen County.