“Wherever, throughout the earth, there is such a thing as a formal harvest, there also appears an inclination to mark it with a festive celebration. The wonder, the gratitude, the piety felt towards the great Author of nature, when it is brought before us that, once more, as it has ever been, the ripening of a few varieties of grass has furnished food for earth's teeming millions, insure that there should everywhere be some sort of feast of ingathering. In England, this festival passes generally under the endeared name of Harvest-Home.” ~ Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869
“Harvest Home, also called Ingathering, is a traditional English harvest festival, celebrated from antiquity and surviving to modern times. Participants celebrate the last day of harvest in late September by singing, shouting, and decorating the village with boughs. The cailleac, or last sheaf of corn (grain), which represents the spirit of the field, is made into a harvest doll and drenched with water as a rain charm. This sheaf is saved until spring planting. The ancient festival also included the symbolic murder of the grain spirit, as well as rites for expelling the devil. A similar festival was traditionally held in parts of Ireland, Scotland, and northern Europe.” ~ Encyclopedia Brittannica
November 11 is a special day to thank our military veterans, for example, and, as my readers outside the US might be interested to know, on the fourth Thursday of November every year, we roll the ancient autumn harvest celebration in with a national day of gratitude for our country.
It was not always a national holiday, however. During his first presidential term, George Washington announced a solemn day of prayer and thanksgiving for the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War and the founding of America, but it was not until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency that Thanksgiving was made official, following the Union army’s victory at the horrible Battle of Gettysburg, right here in my home state of Pennsylvania.