Since Walking the Tightrope, the next play at 24th ST Theatre, takes place in England, I find myself researching differences in our
cultures. Most of us know the narrative imposed upon America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Growing up in Boston, I visited Plymouth Rock every year on school field trips, and saw that lovely etching of “1620” into the rock. Not that I doubt the upstanding story of breaking bread before betrayal, not at all….
The concept of Thanksgiving traces back to England, as a Protestant response to all the Catholic holidays. (Remember how key the religions are in Shakespeare?) Here is more from wikipedia:
Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. The holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date of the holiday
In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and in reaction to the large number of religious holidays on the Catholic calendar. Before 1536 there were 95 Church holidays, plus 52 Sundays, when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Church holidays to 27, but some Puritans, the radical reformers of their age, wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including Christmas and Easter. The holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts ofspecial providence. Unexpected disasters or threats of judgement from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings, viewed as coming from God, called for Days of Thanksgiving. For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plague in 1604 and 1622. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armadain 1588, and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, and developed into Guy Fawkes Day.
Do you have any unique Thanksgiving traditions? It’s the one day out of the year that I bake.