According to a Harris Poll conducted a few years back about our top ten holidays, Christmas takes the prize among most Americans.
Runner up went to Thanksgiving (my favorite), followed by All Hallow’s Eve (known more traditionally as “Halloween”) closing out the top three.
I won’t leave you hanging. Independence day was fourth, Easter was next and then three non-religious holidays lined up for sixth, seventh, and eighth: New Year’s, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. “My Birthday” came in at ninth. (I didn’t know that was a holiday, but what the heck, another year alive is worth celebrating.) Tied for tenth were Valentine’s Day and Hanukah, which bears the distinction of being the only non-Christian religious holiday to make the list. (You can take a live version of the poll here.)
And, as long as we’re on the subject of Thanksgiving, as I wrote about several years ago, the most common Thanksgiving holiday traditions (per About.com) are:
- Giving Thanks
- Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Breaking the wishbone
- Turkey and Trimmings
A few interesting factoids about our earlier Thanksgivings include that the reason a turkey has come to be the ceremonial meal is actually a fluke of the evolution of our language.
Way back at the beginning, “turkey” was the generic name to describe all fowl. In reality, many historical accounts of that first feast include references to venison, boiled pumpkin, berries, and, maybe even shellfish. As the language evolved, the definition of “turkey” became more specific and so did what graces our Thanksgiving table. (It makes one wonder what “turducken” or “tofurkey” might become for later generations.)
Finally, one last ironic piece of Thanksgiving info is that the Pilgrims most likely gave thanks by fasting, not gorging themselves.
Having a holiday dedicated to gratitude and thankfulness, as one might think, is a universal tradition. The United States does not have a lock on it of course. However, other nations do so in other fashions.
In Germany, the first Sunday of October, Erntedankfest, is a religious holiday, based on the harvest, that gives thanks for a good year and good fortune. Although turkeys are becoming more popular in the celebration, fattened up chickens, hens, geese, and even castrated (sic) roosters, are more traditional.
Japan celebrates Kinro Kahasha no Hi right around the same time we do; each November 23. It evolved from ancient harvest festival rituals and is more aligned with a celebration of hard work and community involvement, so its actual translation is “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” Although the tradition dates back thousands of years, it wasn’t formally created until 1948 in order to celebrate the rights of workers. Today labor organizations still lead the ceremonies with children creating crafts and gifts for local police officers.
One of the newer incarnations of Thanksgiving takes place on the West Indian Island of Grenada. It’s celebrated October 25 and marks the anniversary of the 1983 U.S. military invasion to restore order. Soldiers who were stationed in the country in November of 1983 told the residents about our own Thanksgiving traditions, and to show their gratitude, the people of Grenada surprised the GIs with meals just like they would have had should they remaiedn stateside. Today, Grenada’s Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated in formal ceremonies of remembrance.
Also tied to the United States’ holiday is Liberia, the African nation, which was founded in the 19th century by freed slaves from the U.S. In their version of the holiday, Liberians take the concept of the cornucopia and fill their churches with baskets of native fruits including bananas, papayas, mangoes, and pineapples. An auction for these is held after the service, and then the families return home to feast, followed by concerts and dancing.
Gratitude is as much a part of the human experience as is love, and similarly, feeling thankfulness (or its related emotion, forgiveness) cannot make a situation worse.
While it amplifies the feeling of well-being when all is going well, it is an emotional healing salve in periods of fear and confusion. Either way, may you be blessed with an abundance of gratitude.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching and speaking. If you live in Humboldt County, see him in Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” through December 10 at the Northcoast Repertory Theater in Eureka.