Soon Thanksgiving will be upon us. Thanksgiving Day in Canada has been a holiday on the second Monday of October since 1957. This is a time where families get together, share a good meal and offer thanks for a good harvest and other fortunes.
Given that Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday and many have a day off work (with all schools, banks, post offices, many stores and other businesses closed) people often use this time to visit family and friends or have a get-together over a special meal. Traditionally, the meal includes roast turkey, garnished rack of lamb or glazed ham and seasonal produce, such as pumpkin, corn ears, and squash and pecan nuts.
Since Thanksgiving Day in Canada has being linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals, the image that is often seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables.
The cornucopia, which means “Horn of Plenty” in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.
It may interest you to know that the North American Indians had held ceremonies and festivals to celebrate the season and the completion and bounty of the harvest long before Europeans set foot on what is now considered Canada.
Early European settlers continued the tradition of thanksgiving to offer thanks. The earliest example of this would be the ceremony the explorer Martin Frobisher held in 1578, after his survival of the long perilous journey in his quest to find a northern passage from Europe to Asia.
Refugees fleeing the civil war in the United States brought their brand of celebratory thanksgiving festival and since 1879 Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated, though the date varied and there was differing special theme each year.
The “Blessings of the abundant harvest” however stuck for many years till, Queen Victoria’s golden and diamond jubilees and King Edward VII’s coronation formed the theme in subsequent years.
There are many Thanksgiving stories, but for something different, I feel that this Zen tale can be rather apropos, enjoy:
Publishing the Sutras
Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.
Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.
It happened that at that time the Uji Rive overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation.
Then he began again his work of collecting. Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.
For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.
The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving Day