Monday, October 08, 2012

Once Again We Give Thanks - II

Honour the fruits of thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thy increase; so shall they barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Proverbs 3: 9-10
King James Bible (1611)

I was surprised on Saturday when two friends on Facebook - one English, the other a New Zealander - both expressed surprise at Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving.  Their immediate assumption was that it was an "American" holiday.

I've written in several Thanksgiving posts about the Canadian tradition of Thanksgiving back to our Native Peoples. Every culture has its traditions and rituals - many of them to do with religious observances just as many not - to give thanks for events, victories and always for the harvest. One of the most surprising Canadian thanksgivings were the celebrations - Te Deums, the non-stopping ringing of bells and feasting for days - that went on in the streets of Montreal in 1805.  The news of Nelson's victory over the "Royal Usurper" Bonaparte stirred up the entire population of the city - French and English - and the French merchants subscribed to a monument to Nelson that stands in the centre of Old Montreal to this day.  The defeat of "le petit caporal" was indeed a reason to give thanks for the many families of Royalist heritage in the city and province.

But back to the more traditional Harvest Thanksgiving as celebrated here in Canada; the folks at Canada411 put out a little chart a few years ago that gives some pertinent facts about the holiday as observed here in Canada.  I do take exception to their need to make a comparison with the American holiday but they are right about the earlier harvest - it was 3c this morning when I took the kids out for their walk.

And of course being politically correct the good folks at Canada411 have omitted the religious observance from which our current tradition derives.  I have spoken before of the Harvest Thanksgiving services I recall as a child in our small parish church and later as an acolyte at St Thomas Huron Street.  To this day the words and music of those Matins, Masses and Evensongs remind me of the many things for which I have every reason to give thanks.

Strangely the Hymnal lists only a handful of hymns for the Harvest Thanksgiving but I recall we sang them all at one time or another.  In 1861 Jane Montgomery Campbell translated Mathias Claudius 1782 poem Wir flügen und wir struen and it became We plough the fields and scatter.  The music is the original German setting composed in 1800 by Johann A. P. Schulz.

The Collect for Harvest Thanksgiving

O Almighty and everlasting God, who crownest the year with thy goodness, and hast given unto us the fruits of the earth in their season; Give us grateful hearts, that we may unfeignedly thank thee for all thy loving kindness, and worthily magnify they name.
The Book of Common Prayer
Canada 1959

No matter if we are Canadian or American; no matter if we celebrate a harvest, an event or a victory; no matter if we believe in the faith of Christ, Buddha,the Earth Mother or simply a power higher than ourselves; most of us have reason to give thanks for the bounty that has been given us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. 

October 8 - 1904: Edmonton, Alberta was incorporated as a city.

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I've never understood why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving so late in the year. Our October date makes much more sense. *self-righteous sniff*