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Monday, October 10, 2011

Canadian Thanksgiving: Liturgically speaking

Ottawa Pumpkins (By Lars Ploughmann)

Although it wasn’t until 1957 that the Canadian Parliament officially proclaimed “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October” - Canadians and their predecessors had been ceremonially expressing such thanks long before that.

Wikipedia reports that the Canadian Thanksgiving liturgically
“corresponds to the English and continental-European Harvest
festival” - and also incorporates “scriptural selections drawn from biblical stories relating to the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.”  Churches are therefore decorated with agricultural items such as corn and wheat sheaves - and harvest hymns are sung that Sunday.

According to the Gregorian calendar, Sukkot is traditionally celebrated within the late September to late October time frame (which aligns with the 15th day of the month of Tishrei).  Unlike the Canadian Thanksgiving, Sukkot lasts for seven days - with the eighth day being another important Jewish holiday known as Shemini Atzeret (meaning “Eighth Day of Assembly”).  The biblical name of Sukkot - “The Feast of the Ingathering” - indicates its association with the harvest.  Sukkot was also regarded as a time to give thanks for God’s bounteous agricultural gifts.

There are many biblical passages concerning Sukkot.  In Deuteronomy 31:10-11, Moses commands the
Israelites to gather every seven years on Sukkot in order to read the Law.  I Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7
reference King Solomon’s dedication of the Jerusalem Temple during Sukkot.  Leviticus 23:42-43 (RSV)instructs the Israelites to “dwell in booths for seven days” so that they may know that God made their
ancestors dwell in booths when He “brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

The Cornucopia (“Horn of Plenty”) replicas which can be found in churches and homes during this harvest time of year are rooted in ancient Greek mythology.  The original Cornucopia was said to have been the horn of the goat Amalthea – the goat that nurtured the infant Zeus.  It contained an endless supply of food and drink, and has therefore been a symbol of abundance.


Copyright October 10, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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