Thanksgiving is celebrated every autumn. The festival and the customs associated with it still play an important role, especially in rural areas in both European and American continents. But Why is Thanksgiving Day celebrated and How To Celebrate It?

How To Celebrate Thanksgiving
©Freepik

On Thanksgiving, many churches are artfully decorated with field crops and, in contrast to the dull autumn, many houses are once again decorated with colorful flowers.

When Is Thanksgiving Day?

The harvest festival is one of the great traditional farmer holidays of both major Christian churches. It is celebrated with church services and processions on the last Sunday in September or the first Sunday in October.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference set the first Sunday in October as the date. In the Protestant church, the Sunday after Michaelmas on September 29th (feast of the Archangel Michael) has established itself as a harvest festival. 

Why Is Thanksgiving Day Celebrated?

The harvest festival is intended to remind people of the dependence of humans on nature. Christians thank God for the year’s crops and fruits. The purpose of the festival is to make it clear that man does not have control over God’s creation but is part of it himself.

Thanksgiving shows again and again that the influence of humans on growth and development in nature, despite all scientific progress, is finite. The harvest festival also reminds us that we have to endure again and again that things turn out differently than we wanted and planned.

How Long Has Thanksgiving Been Around?

In the Christian tradition, the festival has been documented since the 3rd century, in pre-Christian times there were similar customs among the Greeks and Romans.

For the Teutons, the equinox (September 21st) was the end of the farm work in the field. Hardship and plagues were over when the harvest was brought in and it could finally be celebrated.

The pagan peoples celebrated Thanksgiving with great sacrifices. The fruits of the field like various fruits, corn, turnips were sacrificed on Wotan’s altars, and the early darkness was illuminated with lantern parades. In Judaism, the Feast of Tabernacles was thanksgiving.

Lantern Parade Thanksgiving Day
©Wikipedia

Also Read: Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

What Customs Are There For Thanksgiving?

The church adopted many Thanksgiving customs after Christianization. Symbols are the plaited harvest wreath and the harvest crown, which is tied according to old tradition with barley, rye, wheat, and oats and decorated with flowers and bows.

There are also festively decorated harvest wagons called the last load, which are still used today in many regions. These customs are a reminder of how dependent the sufficient supply of the population with food on a healthy nutritional level, the farmers, used to be.

In the churches, baskets with colorful fruits and ears of corn are usually set up in front of the altars, and prayers are used to thank for the harvest. In some regions, a church fair is celebrated at the same time as Thanksgiving. It is the custom at fairs to burn straw dolls and light thanksgiving fires. In all of these customs, the pagan root of the offerings shines through.

Thanksgiving Harvest Festival Altar
©Flickr / simply mad about Claire

In many families, a feast with relatives and friends is part of the central custom on Thanksgiving. Usually, a menu of fruits and vegetables of the season is served after going to church and the pageant. The Christians also gave thanksgiving a modern theme. So in many communities solidarity campaigns for the hungry people in many parts of the world are carried out.

Also Read: Why is Good Friday Celebrated?

A popular Thanksgiving game is the treasure hunt. A treasure chest filled with fruits from the harvest festival attracts little explorers through the house. For taste games at the banquet table, blindfolded children are given samples in their mouths that they have to assign according to taste. Puzzles, storytelling games, painting competitions, or finger games are also suitable for an entertaining harvest festival at home. You can round off your family celebration with a singing evening.

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