By Lois Kim
Thanksgiving is a traditional, American holiday celebrated in November to give thanks for the harvest and prior year. Americans normally celebrate the holiday by meeting with loved ones, watching football and parades, and most importantly, eating turkey, mashed potatoes, and other classic Thanksgiving foods. However, America and Canada are not
One of the earliest Thanksgivings was celebrated by the ancient Greeks, who held a three-day festival every fall dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of corn and grains. A similar ritual was held by the ancient Romans, although they honored Ceres, the goddess of corn, and featured music, parades, games, sports and a feast, similar to today’s Thanksgiving. The cornucopia, one of the most recognized symbols for Thanksgiving, in fact originates from the ancient Greeks and Romans. The term comes from the Latin cornu copiae, which translates to “horn of plenty.” According to Greek mythology, the cornucopia was made by Zeus to produce an unlimited supply of whatever the owner wanted.
“Chuseok,” is a holiday celebrated by Koreans during the fall, the exact date depends on the lunar calendar but was celebrated on September 8 this year. The fall festival dates back 2,000 years and is traditionally spent with family eating traditional foods, playing ancient games, thanking God and honoring the dead. Ganggangsullae Dance is one of the ancient games, where women and children, wearing traditional Korean outfits called hanbok, hold hands, singing and dancing in a large circle that is supposed to represent the full moon. On Cheuseok morning, family members also hold memorial services to honor their ancestors with foods such as freshly harvested rice, rice cakes, and rice liquor, that are then consumed by the family members after the service.
Erntedankfest (“harvest festival of thanks”) is a fall holiday celebrated by the Swiss, Austrian, or German from mid-September to November, although there is not a date followed uniformly everywhere. It is usually a rural harvest time ceremony with church services, music, a parade, and country fair atmosphere. In big cites, Erntedankfest is sponsored by a Protestant or Catholic church and usually entails a sermon, choral singing, the thanksgiving procession, and the presentation of the traditional Erntekrone (“harvest crown”) for the Erntekönigin (“harvest queen”). There is more music, dancing, and food throughout the day and an evening service followed by Laternenumzug (a lateen and torch parade) for the children and fireworks.
Kinro Kansha no Hi (“Labor Thanksgiving Day”), is a Japanese holiday celebrated on November 23 to commemorate“labor” and “production” and also give each other thanks and gratitude for the hard work and success throughout the year, although the holiday tends to focus on workers who did their jobs well. The holiday used to be called the Shinto Harvest Festival and was held at the imperial court in which the Emperor would taste the year’s first harvested rice and dedicate the first harvest to the gods. Now, there is an annual Kinro Kansha no Hi festival in Nagano that encourages people to consider the environment, human rights, and global peace issues. Children in nursery schools will also draw pictures and present them to local police stations as a way of saying thanks to the police for protecting them during the year.
Overall, although Thanksgiving is a very prominent holiday in the United States, it actually has roots all around the world. Several different cultures celebrate their own version of it today with different foods, games, and so much more. But ultimately, the meaning is clear: being thankful for what we have is an important value in society and should not be forgotten.