Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving and Its Roots

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who are celebrating it today. It is a pity that its origins (with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621) in the British Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving, or Harvest Festival are less celebrated in Britain than they used to be at the time of the Harvest Moon (at the Autumn Equinox). Although there is evidence of such celebrations stretching back to pagan times, The Rev. Robert Stephen Hawker of Morwenstow in north Cornwall was responsible for bringing the celebrations into the churches, which used to be decorated with flowers and harvest produce. There used to be services of thanksgiving, and the singing of hymns, such as We Plough The Fields and Scatter and All Things Bright and Beautiful. Unfortunately, with the understandable fall in church attendance (owing to the useless, wishy-washy leadership of the Church of England), everyone now thinks that Thanksgiving is an American and Canadian invention.

Largely gone in Britain too are ceremonies such as 'Crying The Neck' to mark the reaping of the last neck of corn and making a corn dolly out of it as a charm until the next harvest home.

In the picture is Hawker's church of St Morwenna on the cliffs of Morwenstow. Hawker was also a remarkably good poet and hymn writer and used to sit out in a little hut, which he built out of driftwood, on the high cliffs, overlooking the ocean, to compose his verse. The hut is still there, and it is the smallest building preserved by the National Trust.

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