Written by Maeven Eller-Five
The season to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives is upon us. It’s that time of year we are meant to look back across the landscape of our last year, and count all ways we can be grateful.
Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday we celebrate here in the United States. We celebrate Thanksgiving here in part as a way to recognize the first feast celebrated by the pilgrims here the New World. At that first gathering, the Native Americans taught the new immigrants how to survive the harsh winters of their new homeland.
The idea of giving thanks is worldwide and rooted in ancient times when food was much harder to come by. In those days, there weren’t supermarkets or drive-throughs. Having enough to eat was often a daily struggle, as it still is for many cultures around the world.
When I think about our ancestors and such struggles, I realize how much of our ancient existence was the effort to stay alive. Each of the turns of the wheel we observe today were meant to be teaching opportunities. There was the time to prepare the land for the seeds. Next, it was time to plant the seeds they saved last year for just this moment. The next season livestock was sent out to graze on tender shoots and grasses, to grow strong and bring on new stock.
Each time the tribes came together, it was to share in knowledge, the workload, and often time to bring together what foods they had left to trade. Each season taught the younger tribe members what was necessary to sustain the cycle of their villages life. They learned this by the yearly exercise of gathering and preserving their crops.
These ancient peoples came together to harvest their food as it lightened their workload. As the old English proverb from the 1300’s goes, “Many the hands make light work.” In some cultures, they shared the workload at least three harvest times a year. The first harvest was often to bring in the grains. Next, they reaped the soft fruits and vegetables. Later came the root vegetables, tree fruits, and regional nuts. It was vital to teach these skills so life could go on.
The winters could be very lean times. The long dark days often accompanied uncertainty and fear. Though through cooperation they sustained themselves. After their harvest, the ancient peoples would join together to celebrate their good luck in bringing in the crops. They also celebrated the knowledge they brought in enough yield to make it through the winter. It was this time they gave thanks.
Thinking about how a small village counted on the success of that season’s crops and their cooperation, we can consider what it must have meant if something happened to their corps that year. What would a poorly timed storm near harvest mean to the life of their babes and elderly? How would fire or a failed crop impact their future as a people? What did the families feel when they knew they didn’t have enough to sustain them? It doesn’t take much to empathize with the plight they endured year after year.
Today our Thanksgiving is often one of a metaphorical nature with food more readily available to us. It is time we choose to recognize the many blessings in our lives, and all the reasons we should be grateful. When we are fortunate, and we have a community to share the great turn of the wheel with, we can see the sacred found in our unity. For many of us, our unity alone is reason enough to be grateful.
This Thanksgiving may you have all you need to sustain you. May your harvest see you through the dark times. May your community be there when you find yourself in need. May you know the true meaning of thankfulness, and have enough of it to see you through.
May you never know hunger. May you never know thirst.