Thanksgiving in Older Times

Thanksgiving is coming soon. It’s set — at least in this part of the world — on the 4th Thursday of November, which explains why it’s never the same day of the month two years running.

In the US, this traditionally involves gathering in family groups to chow down on turkey, some kind of bread-based dressing or stuffing, sweet taters, cranberries, greenie beanies, and pumpkin or apple pies. (Your mileage may vary. Mine sure does). The idea is to celebrate a good harvest (even though most of us do our “harvesting” at the grocery store).

Older cultures celebrated having plenty at harvest time. They just did their celebrations at different times in different ways.

Ancient Greeks had “Thesmophoria,” a celebration to honor the goddess Demeter with gifts of fruit, cake, and grainy stuff.

The Ancient Romans likewise honored their goddess Ceres with “Cerelia,” a holiday filled with games, sports, feasts, and other shenanigans.

Ancient Egypt did their thanksgiving celebration in the spring. (There’s always one that’s different). They honored the goddess Min. It was actually a sad time for them because Min lived in the corn they were harvesting, so they acted depressed while harvesting it. After the harvest was over, the Pharaoh would throw a party.

Ancient Chinese celebrated the moon’s birthday (“Chung Ch’ui) in the middle of August. They harvested stuff and threw a party while watching for flowers to fall from the moon to bring them good luck for the next year.

The ancient cultures and our current celebrations had some things in common: lots of food, fun, and frivolity.


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