Geography of Thanks

Thanksgiving Day is something that Americans usually think is just related to them.  Pilgrims, Native Americans, food.  Well, there may not be pilgrims and Native Americans anywhere else, but food is everywhere.  Food is life.

Image from New Lafayette.org.

Image from New Lafayette.org.

The importance of food and being thankful for it can be seen in these two articles: one about Havana’s second revolutiondiscusses how politics and food interact and the other about poverty in America, Our Cupboard was Bare.  There are also many organizations that provide food and companionship to the less well-off, such as Food Finders and Volunteer Action for Aging (VAA).  Food Finders provides food to the poor by connecting them with volunteers and others in the community and getting donations.

Here are some facts stated on their information brochure:

Of all the people affected by food insecurity 32% are children and 14% are seniors.

2 billion people could be fed for a year with the amount of food the U.S. throws away each year.

The VAA helps seniors to maintain independent living in their homes and provide much needed companionship.  They list several ways to volunteer and help, one of which is a Thanksgiving Meal Delivery Event.  Others listed on their website include:

  • Friendly Visitor Program:  Weekly or monthly visits to homebound senior or disabled adult in order to reduce loneliness.
  • Phone-a-Friend Program:  Once a week call to a homebound senior or disabled adult in an effort to offer support, conversation, and companionship.
  • Administrative Assistance:  Aid in administrative office duties that support our volunteers in the field.
  • Volunteer Events:  Episodic single day volunteer events such as Serve Day, Annual Thanksgiving Meal Delivery Event, Letters to Troops, and other community projects.

On a lighter note, Thanksgiving Day can be thought of as a harvest celebration, and countries around the world have their own harvest celebrations.  Each one unique and culturally important.

China

The Chinese celebrate the Chung Chiu Moon Festival (Mid-autumn festival) on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (around September/October).  The Moon Festival has various legends and activities attached to it.  One story says a woman, Chang Er, flew to the moon, lives there and can  be seen dancing on the day of the Moon Festival.  During this day, families and lovers are supposed to reunite, and watch the moon rise, eat moon cakes and sing moon poems.   The moon is also supposed to be at its brightest and roundest on this day.  Moon cakes are a stuffed pastry that can have, “sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds, and duck eggs embossed with a baker’s insignia. The mooncake’s center is filled with a salty yolk […] to represent the full moon”.

Korea

Korea’s harvest celebration honors their ancestors and is called Chuseok.  It’s a three day long event where families get together and first have a memorial service at home and then eat the newly harvested food, such as rice, alcohol and songpyeon (rice cakes).  Then the families must perform Seongmyo (visiting ancestral graves) and Beolcho (clearing the weeds around the graves) to show their respect for their ancestors.  There are several activities, such as Ssireum (wrestling) and Ganggangsullae (circle dance) where the women dress in traditional clothing, gather together in a circle and sing songs.

Ghana

In Ghana they have the Homowo Festival, which centers around yams, a staple crop.  The festival is a reminder to be thankful after the Ga people suffered a famine while migrating to Accra.  This famine caused the people to increase food production, which helped end their hunger.  In celebration of that they “hooted at hunger” (homowo).  This festival runs from May to August, starting with the sowing of millet by priests.  Women then dig up and save the best yams that are blessed by the local chief.  A feast, dancing, singing and drum playing then commence.

India

In India there are several different versions of the harvest festival, depending on the location.  In northern India they have Lohri in late February or early March during the harvest of wheat.  Holi, a five day Hindi festival, is also celebrated at this time.  Friends, family and strangers are treated the same and people throw colored water and red powder at each other.  They also build bonfires and rub the ashes on their foreheads for good luck.

The eastern India festival is all about love.  It occurs during the harvest of rice in the spring and follows the love story of the gods Krishna and Radha.  Images of the gods are decorated with flowers and pulled through the streets by decorated animals.  Dramatic poems about the gods are read and men and women in separate groups dance around bonfires.  They also throw colored water and red powder at each other.

The southern India festival Onam is held in honor of King Mahabali.  They have a snake boat race, dancing, singing, worshiping and eating.  Payasam is the favorite food during this time.  Women and children dress up in colorful clothes and a Pookkalam a flower mat is placed in the courtyard.  There is also another festival called Pongal, lasting four days, starting on January 14th.  This festival honors the sun for the harvest and includes the boiling of milk and rice.  Homes are decorated and Pongal is offered to the sun in the hope that they will have prosperity, joy and happiness.

There are a lot more countries with their own harvest festivals.  You can see some more of them at this site: The Holiday Spot.   Australia has SIX different harvest festivals!

With that I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival!

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