Thanksgiving is a pagan holiday
Is Thanksgiving Pagan? - Eclectic witchcraft
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There is a lot of controversy surrounding the American Thanksgiving holiday. Due to its racist and genocidal past, some find it difficult to celebrate this holiday.
Thanksgiving is also controversial to some Christians because of its possible association with certain pagan holidays. But do the similarities between two holidays make Thanksgiving pagan? Or do the similarities simply have to do with a common topic that is important to all people?
Let's look at Harvest Home or Harvest Church. This, according to many accounts, was the true ancestor of the modern American Thanksgiving Festival. This holiday usually occurred around the autumn equinox when people decorated the church with the fruits and vegetables they had grown that year.
After the festival, these fruits and vegetables were donated to the poor. This was seen as a time to care for the less fortunate such as widows, orphans, those stuck in their homes, and ministers.
More pagan is the holiday of Mabon. While this holiday is traditionally observed in September, there are similar themes such as self-sacrifice and thanksgiving for a good harvest.
The American First Thanksgiving myth, when reduced to the essentials, contains exactly the same themes: Native American sacrifice, Puritan gratitude.
Some Christians believe that the similarities between Mabon, Harvest Home, and Thanksgiving mean that Thanksgiving must then be a pagan holiday. However, there are many similarities between all holidays. I cannot imagine a single vacation that is unique to one culture and not present in any other. Can you?
There are other harvest festivals in other cultures. The idea of a holiday to say thanks for our blessings is ancient and universal. Other harvest festivals are:
The departure of min
The Egyptian festival of the departure of Min, an Egyptian god of fertility, masculinity and procreation. This old festival dates from the predynastic period (approx. 6000 to approx. 3150 BC).
Often depicted as a man with an erect penis holding a flail, Min was also known as Khnum. As agriculture spread across Egypt, its notoriety also increased. Abundant harvests were celebrated as a sign of male fertility.
At the beginning of the harvest season, Min's image was removed from the temple and taken to the fields so that he could bless the harvest. The king cut the first piece of grain to ceremonially symbolize his connection to the gods and the divine right to be kind. It also symbolized his connection to the land and to the people over whom he ruled.
The cut grain was offered as a sacrifice to the gods. Nude games were then played, the main game being climbing a giant pole.
Another harvest festival is Sukkot, a festival in Judaism. This holiday begins 5 days after Yom Kippur and is also known as hag ha-asif.
This is a weeklong celebration where Jews stay in cabins or huts and one of three major pilgrimages is festivals in the Jewish year.
The holiday is about rejoicing and thanking God for a completed harvest. Through the enforced simplicity of eating and staying in shelters, we see another portrayal of the victim.
In China there is a mid-autumn festival to celebrate the harvest. The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon in the night, corresponding to mid-September to early October of the Gregorian calendar.
During this festival, moon cakes are eaten and the moon is worshiped. The ancient Chinese believed that the moon was associated with rejuvenation. This festival also celebrates family reunions.
Most of the time, Chang'e is revered on this holiday. Frankincense is burned for this deity, a goddess of the moon.
One of the ubiquitous images of Thanksgiving is the cornucopia. What you may not know is that this image is of ancient origin, dating back to Greek and Roman mythology!
Indeed, a popular myth about the origin of the cornucopia is related to the childhood of Zeus. When Zeus was a baby he had to be hidden from his god-eating father so that he would not be eaten too.
While he was hidden in Crete, he was looked after by divine companions. One such companion was a goat, Amalthea. Zeus drank Amalthea's milk but had no control over his divine strength and accidentally broke off the goat's horn.
This horn was known to give endless nourishment, just like Amathea.
Sarah Hale, mother of Thanksgiving
But what about the American Thanksgiving Day? Surely this was based on a real event, not a myth, right?
Sarah Hale, a prominent writer who wrote Mary Had A Little Lamb, actually owes much of the merit of Abraham to Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Hale published a novel called "Northwood: A Tale of New England". An entire chapter was devoted to Thanksgiving, a tradition that was already popular in some parts of America.
Sarah Hale appeared to be a fan of the holiday as she campaigned for state and federal officials to pass laws that turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday. She believed this could help ease growing tensions between North and South in America.
While she eventually got her national day, a lot of what we believe about Thanksgiving is actually based on lies and myths.
For example, the pilgrims didn't actually hold the first American Thanksgiving Day. Both Texas and Virginia had harvest festivals of thanksgiving years before the pilgrims.
So is Thanksgiving a pagan holiday?
When we get to Yule there is one thing I will say very often on my blog posts.
Similarities between holidays do not mean that a holiday was stolen from another culture. It doesn't necessarily mean that it was influenced by another culture.
Most of the holidays in the western world revolve around natural occurrences during the year. The wheel of the year may seem very pagan at first, but any human being sufficiently tied to the land would think to say thank you for an abundant harvest before winter sets in.
So is Thanksgiving a pagan holiday? No not true. There are a number of similarities, and likely influences from other cultures, in the way we celebrate Thanksgiving, but that doesn't change the fact that modern American Thanksgiving was created by Christians and has Christianity embedded in it.
As pagans, we can definitely find easy ways to celebrate Thanksgiving by thanking the sun god of our choice. But I don't think there is any reason to troll Christians by calling this holiday pagan.
If you're looking for a pagan Thanksgiving ritual, give this one a try!
Let’s thank everyone this season for the good things we’ve seen this year. Whether you are pagan, Christian, or atheist, we all have something to be thankful for. Don't let the cultural past or present of this holiday stop you from saying thank you!
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