On Thanksgiving Day, American people gather together with their family and friends to share food and to give thanks for the blessings of the past year. In kitchens across the country, people prepare traditional foods of the season, such as turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. This American holiday has been celebrated since the early days of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims set aside a time of festive thanksgiving in response to a plentiful harvest.
To learn more about the history of this popular holiday, explore The First Thanksgiving.
Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals
In ancient Israel, people traveled to Jerusalem three times during the year to bring offerings of thanksgiving to the Temple. The first was at Passover, at the beginning of the planting season. The second, seven weeks later, was at Shavuot, when the first crops were reaped. The third was at Sukkot, when the last harvest was brought in.
Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, begins five days after Yom Kippur and is observed for one week. Traditionally meals are taken outside the home in a sukkah, an unroofed hut decorated with the fruits of the harvest. The sukkah is a reminder of the temporary dwellings of the Israelites during their journey through the desert.
Kwanzaa, which means "First Fruits," is based on ancient African harvest festivals and celebrates ideals such as family life and unity. During this spiritual holiday, celebrated from December 26 to January 1, millions of African Americans dress in special clothes, decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, and light a candleholder called a kinara.
To learn more about the history and traditions of Kwanzaa, explore the Kwanzaa scrapbook.
Along with harvest time, the beginning of spring is another popular reason to celebrate. Here are some other agriculturally-based celebrations based around spring.
In Pakistan, boys celebrate the first day of spring in the Muslim calendar with exciting kite-fighting contests. After putting powdered glass on their strings, they use the strings to try to cut off each other's kites. Whoever keeps his kite in the air the longest wins.
For this Hindu spring festival, people dress in green. Children then squirt each other with water pistols filled with yellow- or red-colored liquid. They also blow colored powder on each other through bamboo pipes. Everyone gets soaked — and colorful — to celebrate spring.
To celebrate the return of spring, children in England dance around tall poles, called maypoles, decorated with ribbons. Their dancing wraps the ribbons tightly around the pole. Explore a photo story of the Maypole Celebration.