After Remembrance Sunday I find my thoughts start to focus on Christmas, but when I lived in America, of course Thanksgiving was the big feast on the horizon.
There is an interesting relationship between the two Festivals in Canada where the proximity of the Armistice to Thanksgiving on November 6th prompted the Canadians to move Thanksgiving to the 2nd Sunday in October, which is closer to our own Harvest Festivals. Indeed, it appears that the first Thanksgivings in the now United States occurred after the safe arrival of 38 settlers at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia as dictated by the group’s charter from The London Company. (Set up by James I for the specific goal of colonising the Americas.)
After drought in 1620, there is a record of a celebration at Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the harvest was shared with the indigenous Indians, though there are accounts of similar festivities elsewhere as early as 1598. However, there is an even more curious synchronicity: to further confuse the matter, the Pilgrim Fathers used the Julian calendar, not Gregorian as we now do, so November 21th would have been November 11th!
Whatever the origins, it would seem that the early celebrations were indeed Thanksgivings, until 1682, when they assumed a more political slant. In the next century Washington was to declare that November 26th 1789 was to be “a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by grateful hearts”. Lincoln later set the date to be the final Thursday in November and Roosevelt in 1941 moved it to the fourth Thursday of November to boost the economy after the Great Depression. It took until JFK in 1963 to fully compromise on the date of Thanksgiving as it was the subject of warring factions in Virginia!
Whatever, this year Thanksgiving falls on November 23rd for the Americans, so I thought it fun to do a couple of Harvest arrangements: traditionally the colours are those of fall, echoed in the amber and glowing reds of these roses highlighted by the gem-like quality of the berries and the hips and the haws. It is such a rich time of year for colour, even the late Autumn skies reflect the abundant palette of the late harvest with the glowing red, orange and palest peaches.
Despite Presidential Proclamations across the ages establishing Thanksgiving formally by State legislation since the Founding Fathers, the flowers and decorations so generously shared by the Americans reflect the true nature of the feast: the celebration of the harvest and thanksgiving.
From here, we turn our attention to that most exciting of seasons: Advent… Ellie and I cannot wait to share with you the fun of the preparation for the greatest Festival of the Year in the Western world – Christmas!