Harvest Thanksgiving / 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Lam 1:1-6
Hab 1:1-4;2:1-4
2nd Reading
2 Tim 1:1-14
2 Tim 1:6-14
Lk 17:5-10
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Reflections about ‘Thanksgiving’ by Rev. Rosalind Gnatt

American Thanksgiving was born out of the tradition of european harvest festivals, first of the Spanish and French colonists and later by the colonists from the British Isles. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Thanksgiving became a national holiday, the 4th Thursday in November being selected. The earliest colonists would not have survived without the assistance of the indigenous people, who taught them how to catch fish and grow crops that were unknown in Europe. Sadly, the gratitude for this lifesaving assistance was short-lived; the Europeans, though religiously at odds with each other, were unified in believing themselves to be the superior race which was entitled to the riches of what they saw as the “New Canaan.”

More than being a “thanks for the harvest fest,” Thanksgiving among Americans isn’t tied to the religious calendar; it is mainly a time when families and friends come together. It is the most heavily trafficked day of the year, the highways resembling the first day of summer vacation in Germany. Food, conversation, games together, getting reacquainted after, for many, a year apart, are parts of the landscape of the day. Though Turkey is thought of as the necessary element in a Thanksgiving meal, people whose families immigrated from Italy or Greece or any number of countries across the globe, will often have their own traditional dishes – it’s the dance of tradition; coming back to people and places and food that are familiar – that are tradition.

I’ve been thinking about these differences between American Thanksgiving and Harvest Thanksgiving (or German Erntedank). Apart from a similarity concerning gratitude the difference lies in the weight that is put on God’s gift of the earth and our responsibility on this planet (I feel and hear this message much more in Erntedank / Harvest Thanks); and in the more family party atmosphere that one feels in America. I love the Isaiah 58, calling the pious out for their self-satisfied behavior, all the while abusing their workers. Feed the hungry; help those in need; remove the yoke of oppression. That’s where gratitude for the earth shines through: it’s about sharing …