Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Around the World

Early American colonists, from many nations - in fact from all of Christendom, brought the frequent celebration of “Thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as a safe journey, a military victory or the end of a drought, with them to the New World. And this custom continued for centuries: more than 200 years after Coronado celebrated Thanksgiving in North Texas in 1541, the U.S. Continental Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving in 1789 upon the enactment of the Constitution – and was criticized by some members for “following European customs” that weren’t serious enough! 

These Thanksgiving feasts were considered “secular” holidays despite being occasions for prayer & religious services because they originated from community or worldly life and were not required by the church, like mandatory Holy days are. 

Here is a list of some other countries that celebrate their own unique Thanksgiving Day as a fixed holiday each year (info is from Wikipedia and from Consulate or official tourism websites for the various nations):
Leiden, South Holland, celebrates a Thanksgiving feast called "3 October"  (or Drie Oktober ) every year, eating lots of hutspot to commemorate their rescue from The Siege of Leiden in 1574, when the Spanish failed in their attempt to capture the city of Leiden during the riotous, warring years of the reformation. Soon after the siege, this Calvinist city was temporary home to Dutch Mennonites, French Walloons/Huguenots, and the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. Having read about hutspot, I'm thinking we ought to add it to our own Thanksgiving dinner dishes!

Canadian Thanksgiving Day is the 2nd Monday in October, celebrated much like that in the United States, with turkey, pumpkin, and trimmings. The picture above is of Samuel de Champlain's "Order of Good Cheer" celebrating in 1606 in Acadia. Canada’s Thanksgiving also shares a similar history with ours: feasts by early explorers & colonists held jointly with Native American tribes for safe arrival at a destination, relief from drought, a good harvest, and other grateful events.  Canada has held official Thanksgivings every year since 1879. Before that, going back to 1578, these feasts were observed at various times of year in different provinces. In 1957, Canada's legislature formalized the day as a harvest celebration in this proclamation: "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."

The Federal Day of Thanks, Penance, and Prayer (Jeune federal, Der Eidgenossische Dank-, Buss-, und Bettag) is an outgrowth of days established by religious and secular authorities since 1650. The modern observance, since 1832, on the third Sunday in September is a quiet day to review the good things received. “

In 1870, the legislature recognized "Liberia's dependence on the great Arbiter of events and established a Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the many good and loving kindnesses shown toward us as a people." Its observation occurs on the first Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving in Grenada is a public holiday held on October 25th each year. Banks, business places and most shops are closed. Religious services, family meals and get-togethers are the order of the day in most households. In addition, the date commemorates the 1983 joint Caribbean and American military intervention (by invitation of the legitimate government) in Grenada, which restored free elections and a democratic way of life.

Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders is a public holiday in Croatia, celebrated on August 5th. In 2008, the Parliament also assigned the name Day of the Croatian Defenders to the holiday, as a memorial to its War of Independence.. The main celebration is centered in Knin where there are festivities commemorating the event, beginning with a Mass and laying of wreaths in honor of those who died in the war, and continuing with parades and concerts. “

Annual Thanksgiving days are not as common perhaps as soccer in the wide world, but it is cool to see the threads that connect us in our shared histories with these nations. We can all find reasons to sit down to a good meal and say grace together! 

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