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Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is a traditional harvest celebration. It was celebrated for the first time in 1621, by the puritans who migrated to New England in America. They introduced the Thanksgiving feast for the first time after the first harvest in the new land. It was a gratitude to God for the abundance. There are various myths associated with Thanksgiving Day.

It is as James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plymouth Plantation says-

"The reason that we have so many myths associated with Thanksgiving is that it is an invented tradition. It doesn't originate in any one event. It is based on the New England puritan Thanksgiving, which is a religious Thanksgiving, and the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England and maybe other ideas like commemorating the pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and transformed into something different from the original parts."
Thanksgiving feast is often referred to as "The First Thanksgiving", but the feast was never repeated and so it cannot be called the beginning of a tradition. The colonists did not call it a Thanksgiving feast either. To the piously religious puritans it was a day of prayer and fasting and would have been held any time when they felt an extra day of thanks was called for. Yet, the 1691 feast became a landmark and since then America has celebrated the Thanksgiving Day as a tradition.

Thanksgiving Parade

Thanksgiving Day parade originated from a European tradition. The employee's of Macy's Department Store in New York were first generation immigrants. Because they were so proud of their new American homeland, they wished to celebrate this new American holiday with a tradition from their European past. In 1924, the employees marched to Macy's flagship store on 34th street dressed in lively and bright costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Live animals which were a part of this parade, included camels, goats, elephants and donkeys. It was really astonishing to see that more than quarter of a million people were gathered at the venue. The parade was such a success that since then it has become an annual affair.

Large balloons first appeared in 1927 with Felix the Cat. One tradition long gone is the releasing of the balloons. They would float for days and the lucky finder could claim a prize! New balloons such as Walt Disney characters were among the favorites.

With nationwide television, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade assumed its hold on the entire nation in the 1950's.

Thanksgiving Parade occurs each year on a cold morning in late November, but millions of people line the streets from 77th Street to 34th Street - over 2 miles! Before the official parade, several clowns come through, to liven everyone up. They throw confetti and greet the children. Many spectators are happy to see the parade begin after traveling many miles and waiting several hours.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a one-of-a-kind New York experience that both children and adults are sure to enjoy.

Thanksgiving Celebration Around the World

Since the early eras when man was still in the prehistoric times, he was subjected to the extremes of nature. Though he could fend for himself and protect himself from wild animals he had to submit to the whims of nature. He held the nature at awe and thereby started to worship nature to appease the nature Gods.
That was the beginning of Heathen Gods and pagan rituals. History traces the pagan rituals in almost all cultures of the world. Harvest Festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations around the world percolate the same spirit of revelry and gaiety. In the form of Thanksgiving, there are many festivals celebrated around the World, commemorating harvest festivities.

Ancient Greeks
Religion was an integral part of the ancient Greeks. They celebrated several seasonal festivals. The autumnal festival known as Thesmosphoria was dedicated to Goddess Demeter, an agricultural, earth and fertility mother goddess who was later known as Ceres by the Romans. She taught the art of ploughing and sowing and showed ways to bring and harvest fruits and grains. The autumnal festival was held for three consecutive days. Related to fertility, the married women built huts for the goddess and fasted for the second day and feasted on the fruits of harvest on the third day. Another seasonal festival, The Midsummer or Lammas was held on the1st of August when the completion of the harvest was near. Mortals and Gods attended a sacred feast commemorating Athena's birthday.

Romans
In Rome too festivities centered on the celebrations of good harvest. Ceres, the goddess of corn, is worshiped and offered first fruits of the harvest and pigs. The festival of Cerelia highlights parades, music, games, grand feast and sports.

Egyptians
Egyptians celebrated their Thanksgiving festival in a unique manner. Related to Spring harvest, they worshipped Min, the goddess of vegetation and fertility. An interesting feature of the festivity was the mass weeping of the peasants to appease the spirit of corn, indicating their sorrow in cutting them, thus taking steps to prevent future wrath of the spirits.

Chinese
Chung Ch'ui is the Chinese counterpart of the Thanksgiving harvest festival. Celebrated on the 8th month of the Chinese calendar, the harvest festival falls on the full moon and thus it is believed to be the birthday of the moon. The delicacies of the Thanksgiving festivity include round and yellow 'moon cakes' with an image of a rabbit on them, roasted pigs and first fruits of the harvest. According to the Chinese legend anyone who spotted flowers falling from the moon on this day was blessed with a good fortune.

Israel
The eight-day festival of the Jews is a commemoration of the hardships and sufferings of Moses and his followers when they wandered on the desert for forty years. For more than 3000 years, the autumnal festival was known by various names-'Hag ha Succot' or 'The Feast of the Tabernacles' and 'Hag ha Asif' or 'The Feast of Ingathering.' Today it is known as 'Sukkoth'. Succots were makeshift huts built up of branches resembling the tabernacles used by the wandering nomads. Fruits such as apples, grapes, corn, and pomegranates were hung from the roofs of these huts.

India
India, a country of many cultures and festivities adds to the share of harvest celebrations of the world. Baisakhi, the festival of Punjab is a harvest festival, where the people of Punjab offer their first fruits of the harvest to the Lord and thank him for the bounties.

In various forms and in multiple ways, the Thanksgiving is celebrated around the World, but the sole motive of the festivities is the same, and that is to show gratitude to the Almighty for showering his bounties on humans.

Last Updated On : October 11, 2011

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