European roots of Thanksgiving

In almost every society there is a ceremony where people express thankfulness for life’s blessings. In agrarian societies, these ceremonies were directly connected to the harvest season. As evident from most of the cultures, people would associate these with harvest festivals in gratitude of the God who protects them and their crops.

In Britain

Harvest is from an Anglo-Saxon word “haerfest” which meant ‘Autumn.’ It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. In Britain, the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. So in ancient traditions Harvest Festivals were traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon. This moon is the full moon which falls in the month of September.

An early Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest. In some cases, there were also ceremonies and rituals at the end of the harvest.

Nowadays the festival is held at the end of harvest which varies in different parts of Britain. Sometimes neighbouring churches will set the Harvest Festival on different Sundays so that people can attend each other’s thanksgivings. Farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called a harvest supper. Some churches and villages still have a Harvest Supper.

The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. This helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.

In Ireland

The Timoleague Harvest Festival gets its name from its original Irish name Tigh Molaga, meaning the Home/House of Molaga. St. Molaga was reputed to have brought beekeeping and honey to Ireland. Honey production is still evident in the area.

The village is built around a monastic settlement founded by Saint Molaga in the 6th century. In 1240 Timoleague Friary was founded by the franciscan order on the same location. In 1612, the abbey was sacked by English soldiers who also smashed all of the stained glass windows, but much of the significant architecture remains. The monks were dispersed by the Reformation.

The Timoleague Harvest Festival is held every year in August. This attracts well known acts as well as events in the village.

As we can see, the European celebrations emphasized more the harvest gathering and thanks given to Mother Earth, and less the sharing aspect of Noth American Thanksgiving Holiday.

Regardless of this, on Thanksgiving Day, more than every day, we should be grateful for everything we Have and for everything we Are.

And, as Reiki teaches us the principle of gratitude deriving from its basic Five Principles. “Just for today, be grateful” is a valuable thought that we should live by this principles every day. Gratitude heals our hearts and minds. On Thanksgiving Day, focus on all that you are thankful for. Begin your gratitude practice today and notice how gratitude opens your heart and makes it easier for you to recognize your blessings. Appreciate the love and abundance in your life, regardless of the challenges that you may face. Empower the words “Thank you, I am grateful” with Reiki and allow Reiki and the mantra to shift your perceptions.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Related articles:
Levels of Gratitude
A Feng Shui approach to The Five Reiki Principles
The Iroquois Thanksgiving Address
Thanksgiving and First Nations

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