Let's go back on time and explore
how prevalent Thanksgiving was in bygone days.
Throughout history many cultures
have been giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. They might be
differing in their forms and presentations. But their spirit, setting
aside a date to reflect on life's blessings, remains the same. Catch a
glimpse of the spectra of colors and shades that tinge the thankful
celebrations from around the world!
As evident from most of the cultures people would associate these with
harvest festivals in gratitude of the God who protects them and their
crops. Harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations held by the
ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews, the Chinese, and the Egyptians
all reflect the similar spirit. The Kaleidoscope here depicts the
spectra of celebration as practiced by these different cultures.
Even in prehistoric times, the
first Americans observed many rituals and ceremonies to
express gratitude to a higher power for life itself. A
Seneca Indian ritual, for example, states, "Our
Creator...Shall continue to dwell above the sky, and
this is where those on the earth will end their
Another quotation of the
American Indians attributed to a later period. But that too was
well before the day the Europeans came to know about
It was: "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."
In South America, many of the native Indian cultures contain
expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving, and in modern Brazil
a special public day of thanksgiving and prayer has been
designated for the fourth Thursday of November every year since
The ancient Greeks worshipped
Demeter as their goddess of all grains. Each autumn the
festival of Thesmosphoria was held to honor the
On the first day of the festival married
women would build leafy shelters and furnish them with couches
made with plants. On the second day they fasted. On the third
day a feast was held and offerings to the goddess Demeter were
made - gifts of seed corn, cakes, fruit, and pigs. It was hoped
that Demeter's gratitude would grant them a good
For over 3000 years Jewish
families have been celebrating an autumnal harvest
festival called Sukkoth. Sukkoth begins on the 15th day
of the Hebrew month of Tishri, 5 days after Yom Kippur
the most solemn day of the Jewish year.
Sukkoth has derived its name from the huts
(succots) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they
wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the
Promised Land. These huts were made of branches and were easy
to assemble, take apart, and carry as the Israelites wandered
through the desert. The festival coprises two main events - Hag
ha Succot - the Feast of the Tabernacles and Hag ha Asif - the
Feast of Ingathering.
During this 8-day long festival the Jews build small huts of
branches which recall the tabernacles of their ancestors. These
huts are constructed as temporary shelters, as the branches are
not driven into the ground and the roof is covered with foliage
which is spaced to let the light in. Inside the huts are hung
fruits and vegetables, including apples, grapes, corn, and
pomegranates. On the first two nights of Sukkoth the families
eat their meals in the huts under the evening sky.
The celebration of the spring-time harvest festival by the ancient
Egyptians was dedicated to the honor of Min, their god of vegetation
and fertility. Spring being the harvest season of the Egyptian's the
festival was held during this season.
The festival featured a parade in which the Pharaoh took part. After
the parade a great feast was held. Music, dancing, and sports were also
part of the celebration.
When the Egyptian farmers harvested their corn, they wept and pretended
to be grief-stricken. This was to deceive the spirit which they
believed lived in the corn.