Polish Doznki

Throughout Poland, a last handful or clump of uncut grain was always left standing in a harvested field because leaving it was believed to release magical energy that would make next year’s crops abundant. A revered member of the community ceremoniously cut these final plants. Women chosen for the honor wove them with other grain stalks, berries, vegetables, ribbons and flowers into a harvest wreath, and their handiwork was carried in a grand singing procession to the church to express gratitude to God for good crops. After the priest blessed it, the wreath was carried to the highest available authority-- squire, priest, governor -- who offered in exchange a massive thanksgiving feast of local foods (borscht with cream, cucumber salad, sausages, boiled meats and wheat dumplings), which was followed by joyous singing and dancing.

Canadian Thanksgiving

The very first non-native Thanksgiving in North America occurred in Canada in 1578 when the English explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland and gave thanks to the Almighty for his safe arrival in the New World. The actual Canadian Thanksgiving tradition began shortly after with French settlers who came with the explorer Samuel de Champlain, bringing their religious customs with them. They celebrated successful harvests with prayers of gratitude and feasting, generously sharing their bounty with the natives. Their heirs and communities continued celebrating the harvest either in late October or early November until 1879 when November 6 was chosen as the official national Thanksgiving holiday. That timing changed in 1957 when the Canadian Parliament designated the second Monday in October as "a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed." As it happens, the second week of October is typically the end of the northern harvest and around the time of the Harvest moon. It is also America’s Columbus Day.

Native Americans Harvest Moon and Hunters Moon

The aboriginal Americans called the gloriously bright and round full moon after the autumn equinox the Harvest Moon, for it signaled the moment to gather together the magnificent gifts of the Great Spirit: corn, berries, beans, grains, nuts, fish, and small game. Because they had taken these gifts, Native Americans wanted to give, so they used this time to offer ritual praise and thanks to every living thing that had sacrificed its existence to become the food or clothing that would allow them to survive. They celebrated their good fortune with dance, drumming, games and feasting. Afterward the big game hunt began, leading in the Midwest and Northeast to the Feast of the Hunters Moon. This celebration included prayers of thanks with meat food offerings to the Great Spirit to request survival over the long winter to come

Sandra Garson is the author of Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking and How to Fix a Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers’ Market. As a longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism and well-known cook for Dharma centers from Maine to Mongolia, she became the first food historian to explore the Buddha’s influence on how the world now eats. This led to exploration of more religious beliefs about food.