November 21, 2007 > Thanksgiving
By Praveena Raman
In the United States the custom of celebrating Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln officially appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Historically however, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, a year when the fall harvest was very successful and plentiful after a laborious and devastating first year in the New World. Their Governor, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that was to be shared by all the colonists and neighboring Native American Indians.
Thanksgiving celebrations and harvest festivals have been celebrated around the world in every culture from ancient times to the present. Greeks honored Demeter, the goddess of grains, at the festival of Thesmosphoria with gifts of seed corn, cakes, fruit, and pigs while Romans celebrated a harvest festival called Cerelia, which honored Ceres their goddess of corn. Egyptians celebrated their harvest festival by honoring Min, their god of vegetation and fertility while ancient and modern Hindus in India celebrate Thanksgiving in January with prayers offered to the Sun God in appreciation of a good harvest. Chinese celebrated their harvest festival, Chung Ch'ui, with the full moon that fell on the 15th day of the eighth month with special moon cakes while Jewish families celebrate a harvest festival called Sukkoth lasting for 8 days. Japanese celebrate "Kinro-Kansha-no-hi", or Labor Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd while Brazilians observe Thanksgivingon the same day as the USA. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. In the British Isles and Europe, the harvest thanksgiving is observed in Protestant and Catholic churches with special altar decorations while in Belfast, Northern Ireland, land has been set aside to establish a Thanksgiving Square.
Traditionally, in the entire United States, families and friends get together on Thanksgiving Day and have a turkey dinner with stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pies and other goodies. The feast is held as a way for families to come together and give thanks for all their blessings. In recent times this festival has also evolved to serve the community and reach out to others who are less fortunate trying to make their day a happy one too. Nationally communities establish food kitchens run by volunteers who besides serving those who come to the established places also deliver food and more to those who are homebound and in need of help.
In the Tri-city area many opportunities are present for all who would like to volunteer their services or donate money. For the past nineteen years the League of Volunteers in Newark have been organizing a Thanksgiving Dinner for all those who would be either spending a day alone or do not have resources. This is a joint effort with several community organizations and offers fellowship and entertainment apart from food. In all these years, Fremont's Center Stage Singers directed by Knuti Van Hoven has entertained the LOV diners with songs for all ages. If you are looking for opportunities to donate or volunteer contact League of Volunteers @ www.lov.org Or call (510) 793-5683.