Thanksgiving across the globe

The tradition of giving thanks for a good harvest dates back thousands of years and is celebrated throughout the globe.

The Ancient Greeks observed a three-day festival that began with the construction of elaborate shelters for the revelers and ended with a large feast. The Romans celebrated their thanksgiving every year on Oct. 4. The ancient Egyptians had their feast during the spring before they planted their crops to honor Min, the god of fertility.

The modern notion of Thanksgiving in the United States was fashioned after the British celebration and was a three-day feast. The first Thanksgiving involved the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indian tribe. The table fare at this feast consisted of lobster, fish, clams, venison, oysters, turkey, goose, squash, corn, pumpkin and plum pudding.

Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Over the years, their celebration has become very similar to ours, with turkey being the main dish. Curiously, this holiday is not celebrated in many of Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 23. This celebration is a mixture of Labor Day and Thanksgiving. The main dish served during this holiday consists of salmon and fried tomatoes.

The Korean day of thanksgiving, Chuseok, is a time where Korean households pay homage to living and deceased relatives. During this banquet such foods as rice cakes, eggplant, bean sprouts, squid and tofu are eaten. No hot spices are used so as not to offend visiting spirits with overly spicy food.

A day of thanksgiving known as Ladin is celebrated in the Province of Goa in India. It is a day to thank God for all good things.

Germany celebrates a day known as Erntedankfest in late September as part of a religious ceremony. The day begins with mass, and then a feast is enjoyed, followed by a religious procession.

One of the most recent countries to adopt a day of thanksgiving is Grenada, which chose Oct. 25, the day that an American invasion helped the natives overthrow the dictator, Maurice Bishop. The domesticated turkey is an important part of many Thanksgiving dinners. The turkey is native to North America. It is believed that indigenous Indian tribes in Mexico were the first to begin domesticating the southwestern variety of wild turkey. By the time Spanish explorers arrived, the Aztec and Hopi Indians were raising domestic flocks of turkey. These explorers brought turkey back to Spain in 1519; from there they were introduced in England in 1524.

The Europeans are credited with developing many of our early varieties of domestic turkey. It is interesting to note that the Pilgrims are thought to have brought domestic turkey over with them on the Mayflower and might have introduced them to the Indian tribes that were harvesting wild turkey for food.

One of the more poplar fruits of autumn is the cranberry, an almost indispensable part of Thanksgiving dinners throughout the U.S., Canada and many European winter festivals. There are many species of cranberry (Vaccinium spp.) that are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in swampy acidic soils.

The cranberry is a small evergreen shrub or vine that is part of the Ericaceae family, a grouping that includes blueberry, huckleberry, bilberry and cowberry.

The name cranberry is derived from the European name craneberry, given to this plant because the flowers resemble the neck and head of a crane. The range of cranberry extends from the mountainous regions of Tennessee to the eastern Canadian provinces.

Nature Notes for 11/27/2011