Thanksgiving is the quintessential US holiday but it is by no means limited to the United States in location, nor in the manner it is observed
Whilst Thanksgiving is now very much portrayed as the all American celebration it is, of course, anything but, with its origins in the dawn of time when a successful harvest was a matter of life and death, not just for you but everyone you knew, and its twisting and turning history of use and abuse by the powerful of the times, from royalty to religion, government to greedy corporations has left it perhaps best known for its US incarnation, but across the world there are many examples of giving thanks and indeed Thanksgiving.
The ubiquity of the all-important harvest across the newly formed agrarian societies of early Human development caused a great many cultures to put great stock in having great stocks, grain particularly was a staple that was stored up from the summers bounty and kept for use throughout the winter when scarcity could become dangerous for a society and its leaders. People tend to get awfully irritated with a leadership that can’t feed them, and so a celebration of the successful harvest was of course officially sanctioned and encouraged, it was as much a celebration of continued political survival as the survival of society as such.
Gambling news of a successful harvest would placate their critics, of which all leaders have several, was hardly unique to any one society, and that official seal of approval extended right through the religious take over and later government manipulation. Being thankful for survival has never gone out of fashion, and indeed giving thanks wasn’t limited to just harvest time but for any time at which a society felt it had brushed aside wholesale death and destruction, being it avoiding losing a war, not all dying in a plague or, perhaps most tellingly, the survival of a king and parliament.
It is therefore hugely unsurprising that around the world the same celebration survives and thrives under various names and guises, always at the same time of year, always with an emphasis on the seasonal food supplies, always a celebration of successful survival and the continuation of it. From the harvest festivals of Europe to the celebrations of the freed slaves in Liberia, the world has a whole host of ways to give thanks but they all stem from very much the same place.
Canada’s Thanksgiving Is In October
Perhaps the most notable is Canada in that it shares much of the same razzamatazz as the US version, and is perhaps only five hundred years old with the first celebrated by Martin Frobisher who tellingly was not celebrating a harvest but his own survival as he tracked across the ice berg strewn northern oceans looking for the still sometimes illusive “northern passage” through to the Pacific. In 1578 he gave thanks for being alive in such a hostile environment.
Giving Thanks Around The World
- People stopped being mobile betting on agriculture
- Harvest festivals hugely important around the world
- The Canada celebrates Thanksgiving much earlier
Of course this being Canada there’s a somewhat more French origin story that features an explorer called Samuel de Champlain who celebrated a more harvest based survival of his settlers in New France as far back as the early 17th century. This is markedly similar to the US first Thanksgiving story in that the French settlers stored and shared food with the local natives to tide them through the harsh winters. Obviously as immigration into Canada exploded over the next few centuries other traditions were added.
The popular spread of the late autumn festival can be both linked to immigrants bringing their own festivals with them, and the already established traditions of settlers. The Scots and Irish brought their influences across the Atlantic as did the Germans and indeed the United Empire Loyalists who moved north when the American revolution left them no home in what became the United States. This melding together of traditions and observances isn’t unique to Canada but it is very noticable.
Jour de l’Action de grace – Thanksgiving in French – occurs on the second Monday in October north of the border, perhaps because the northern latitudes gave rise to an earlier end to that all important harvest for settlers, and despite the references to god in the act of parliament that enshrines it as a national celebration across the country it is by mostly not celebrated in a religious context by Canadians these days, and nor is it used as an economic lever as it is in the US.
Around The World They Give Thanks
In Liberia west Africa freed slaves from the US celebrated Thanksgiving for their survival since 1820 or so, in Grenada they give thanks for the US invasion in 1983, and in Japan their thanksgiving celebrates the labor and production of the nation. There are as many incarnations of the holiday as there are places. The German festival of Erntedankfest, for example, is far more religious in nature, perhaps because the less religious can celebrate at the beer swilling Oktoberfest at around the same time.
Whilst US consumers take to the internet betting in the US somewhere there’s a selection of Christmas gifts they’ve not seen yet, others nations tend towards a more traditional celebration. Dozhinki is a Slavic harvest festival that celebrated the end of the year’s threshing, and it was observed across much of Russia until the Soviet system almost eradicated it, only for it to be revived in some former republics as a national holiday when the wall came down and individualistic nationalism called for celebrations unique to their own culture.
Poland has always had a harvest festival dating back to the days of kings and serfs, and indeed going further afield it is only the date that changes. It seems not to matter if you’re eating pumpkin pie in Canada, watching the ritual of curling beards in Russia or parading through the streets of a German town, the essence is still the same with the icons of the season shared across much of the northern hemisphere. Online gambling sites in the US and elsewhere use the images of pumpkins and pilgrims because they’ve become synonymous with the holiday through popular culture.
This Americanization of the brand name, as it were, has done little to dent the enthusiasm for the holiday elsewhere, but the spread of this popular image has moved the name Thanksgiving away from its roots as merely a harvest festival subverted by religion or economics, into a world wide collection of celebrations that retain the essence of what Thankgiving is all about, our continued survival as a species and that applies as much here as in any other country.