Thanksgiving 2017: Does Thanksgiving Have Pagan Origins?

Central American immigrants and their families pray before Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 2016 in Stamford, Connecticut. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Most modern holidays are derived from ancient holidays celebrated by pagans before the advent of Christianity. Does Thanksgiving have pagan roots, too?

Thanksgiving is not directly correlated with pagan holidays like the recently passed Halloween, or even the upcoming Christmas. Samhain (pronounced SAH-win) is an ancient Gaelic festival that inspired the modern Halloween. Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It begins at sunset on October and goes until sunset on November 1. Because of this and its related feasts, it is sometimes described as the Celtic New Year. The calendar of the Celtic League begins and ends on Samhain. Christmas, too, is a combination of many ancient festivals, all focused on the winter solstice and the "rebirth of the sun."


However, ancient pagans did have thanksgivings and they generally fell around this time of the year. Ancient Greeks held a 3-day long festival each autumn called Thesmosphoria, which honored Demeter, the goddess of grains. On the first day of Thesmosphoria, married women would build leafy shelters and furnish them with couches made with plants, writes Harvest Festivals. This is very similar to the still-celebrated Jewish harvest festival Sukkot, where Jews build decorative tents, called sukkah. After fasting on the second day of Thesmosphoria, ancient Greeks would hold a massive feast for Demeter in hopes of a good harvest.

Ancient Chinese also held a fall festival called Chung Ch'ui that revolved around the full moon. Holidays.net writes about Chung Ch'ui:

According to legend, Chung Ch’ui also gave thanks for another special occasion. China had been conquered by enemy armies who took control of the Chinese homes and food. The Chinese found themselves homeless and with no food. Many staved. In order to free themselves, they decided to attack the invaders. The women baked special moon cakes which were distributed to every family. In each cake was a secret message which contained the time for the attack. When the time came the invaders were surprised and easily defeated. Every year moon cakes are eaten in memory of this victory.

Like western pagan cultures, ancient Chinese worshiped a prime "king of the gods" named Shangti and many lesser gods of other names, writes Ancient History Encyclopedia.

However, there is no direct correlation between these ancient festivals and the modern Thanksgiving in the United States other than the celebration of the harvest season.

The First American Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving in 1621, after a painting by Jean Leon Gerome; screen print, 1932. (GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

The first Thanksgiving between Wampanoag Native Americans and Puritan colonists occurred in 1621 and is sparsely recorded, but forms the basis for the modern celebration. The 3-day celebration, the same length as Thesmosphoria, occurred in Plymouth, present-day Massachusetts, and was prompted by a good harvest. However, it is unknown if turkey was on the menu. History.com writes:

While no records exist of the exact bill of fare, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the colony’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the three-day event. Wild—but not domestic—turkey was indeed plentiful in the region and a common food source for both English settlers and Native Americans. But it is just as likely that the fowling party returned with other birds we know the colonists regularly consumed, such as ducks, geese and swans.

Whatever the menu, the first Thanksgiving did not immediately catch on. It did not become an annual affair until the 1660s and it was not until the American Revolution that George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration on November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."

It was during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving date as a federal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, according to Abraham Lincoln Online. This date is usually the last Thursday of the month five out of seven years. This year, November 30 is a Thursday, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu via Getty Images // Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Amendment 4—a Florida referendum restoring voting rights to former felons—passed in 2018 with 65% of the vote, paving the way for an additional 1.4 million voters in the swing state.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis immediately took steps to undermine the public will by signing into law a bill that would only restore voting rights to felons who fully pay all fees and fines imposed after leaving prison.

Under Florida law, court debts left unpaid after three months are referred to private debt collectors, who can then tack on a surcharge of up to 40%.

Keep reading...
John Sommers II/Getty Images

A day after Senators took an oath of impartiality in the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump, the President eagerly announced the team of lawyers who will be defending him.

Two names on the list stood out.

Keep reading...

Now that the impeachment articles have been transferred to the U.S. Senate and Senators have been sworn in as jurors, Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial is officially underway.

And while it's adjourned for the long weekend, the White House just announced their legal team, and it's a doozy.

In addition to lead attorneys Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, Trump's legal team will consist of five additional lawyers who are expected to have speaking roles on the Senate floor throughout the trial:

  • Robert Ray
  • Alan Dershowitz
  • Ken Starr
  • Jane Raskin
  • Pam Bondi
Yep, you read that right, Ken Starr, of Clinton impeachment infamy.

And none other than Monica Lewinsky herself weighed in with a reaction that was relatable AF:

Many were here for it and had Lewinsky's back.





But doesn't that sentiment pretty much define every day?



And how is that going to. go for Starr?

Fair:

Can we make this happen, please?


Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Promises made, promises kept" is one of President Donald Trump's most repeated campaign slogans, but according to the Washington Post, those might just be empty words.

In 2016, the Post launched the Trump Promise Tracker, which kept a record of the 280+ promises Trump made during the campaign. As the end of his first term draws nearer and nearer, the Post has been updating the tracker of which promises Trump has kept since his election.

Keep reading...
Fox News

Far-right television personality Sean Hannity is a crucial part of Fox News' evening efforts to spin reality in favor of President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday night, that required Hannity to dismiss Lev Parnas, the right hand man of the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Keep reading...
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Maine's senior Senator, Republican Susan Collins, trended on Twitter Wednesday.

But with the reason why, Collins' 2020 senatorial campaign probably wished she hadn't.

Keep reading...