Thanksgiving's Cultural Cousins

Autumn festivals, including American Thanksgiving, East Asian Mid-Autumn Festival and Jewish Sukkot, celebrate family and the Earth's bounty in similar ways despite cultural differences.

Of those three, Thanksgiving is the newcomer.

The Pilgrims celebrated a harvest festival with the Native Americans in 1621. And their ancient Anglo-Saxon ancestors also celebrated autumn harvest festivals.

"Our word 'harvest' is a direct reflex of the Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, word 'hærfest,' which ... only meant 'autumn.' By extension, the word came to refer to the fruits of the field, brought home for processing," John Niles, emeritus professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison told Discovery News.

But Thanksgiving wasn't an official annual event until 1863 when president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, "...set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."...

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