Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (11/21/12): A thousand years of Thanksgiving?

As you know, Thanksgiving has a long tradition in the United States.  (See our earlier SearchResearch question on about traditional cranberry recipes from 2010.)  

In the US, we’ve ritually celebrated Thanksgiving annually since 1621 when the Pilgrims first sat down to celebrate a more-or-less successful harvest.  There were occasional “Thanksgiving” celebrations before that, but It’s been an official holiday since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” 

But other countries have much longer-standing festivals of harvest celebrations.  

So here's a search challenge question to contemplate this Thanksgiving season:  
Can you find another country that has celebrated a annual Thanksgiving festival in November more-or-less continually for at least the past 1000 years?  If so, what's the name of that festival?
As you know, we ritually consume turkey, cranberries, pumpkins, and potatoes.  For extra credit: What food is ritually consumed is this other country’s long-lasting Thanksgiving celebration?  (For triple credit:  What’s the traditional reason that particular food is eaten?

When you send in your answer, let us know about how long it took you to find the answer and what your research process was.  My answer will be posted tomorrow!  

Search on... for a thousand years!  


  1. I believe the holiday of Martinmas qualifies, and it looks like it is celebrated in many countries but the holiday originated in France. I found my answer by searching for "thanksgiving holidays around the world" and seeing that the Dutch celebrate Martinmas in November.

    I read the wikipedia article about Martinmas, and found out that goose is traditionally served, to signify (or to exact revenge upon) the goose that honked at St. Martin while he was hiding from people who wanted to make him bishop and gave away his hiding spot.

    Thank you for the interesting facts to share at my own Thanksgiving table tomorrow! The search took about 10 minutes including my perusal of the other thanksgiving holidays around the world.

  2. I started with "harvest festivals november"

    The wikipedia:

    I found this article:

    So it could be Japan.

  3. I believe the answer is the holiday Niiname-sai, which is celebrated in November Japan. Here is a quote from one website that summarizes what I found on several others, "Labor Thanksgiving Day, Kinrō Kansha no Hi 勤労感謝の日. November 23. National Holiday. Established in 1948, but before then it was celebrated as the Imperial Harvest Festival (Niinamesai 新嘗祭). A rice-tasting ceremony (one of Shintō's main rituals) is performed each year when the emperor offers the newly harvested rice to the gods and then eats a little himself." Rice was and is a main crop of Japan. This symbolized thanks for the harvest and for the workers who produced it. I did find more ancient festivals, but not celebrated in November.

    In searching I tried: harvest festival food thanksgiving but didn't get good results. Then I tried November food thanksgving and this led me to a list which included Japan. By checking the history of each one that came up, I narrowed it down to Japan.

  4. Hi I think it is the Tamil festival of Thai Pongal which is linked to the Tamil calender and winter solstice.

    Celebrated with sweetened or salted rice with boiled lentils as well as cardamom, jaggery, raisins, and cashew nuts.

    It is linked to cooking the new seasons rice and letting boil over (bongal means to boil over)

    Three strikes for me to find it.

    For me the search came up with the search term
    "1000 years harvest festival" after messing looking for thanksgiving and then oldest thanksgiving.
    Learnt something new today!

  5. This took me about 25 minutes from start to finish.

    [harvest celebration history]

    Hmmm...many of these aren't in November. I'd better narrow it down:

    [harvest celebration history november]

    Nice...a whole list of different harvest festival links. So, rather than search through each and every one:

    [ november]

    [Yagan Orimi]

    Nope, Not in November. Let's just pick another one:

    Pay dirt?


    Yes! Martinmas, celebrated every November 11.* Now all I need to do is verify that it's at least a millenium old. To start with France - specifically Tours, whose people had wanted to make St. Martin their bishop and where the festival thus began:

    [france martinmas]

    "Since the 6th century, Martin of Tours’ Feast has been celebrated at Rome."

    Done deal.

    Roast goose is enjoyed on that day too. According to legend, not only did St. Martin hide from the people (he didn't feel worthy of the honor), but also a honking goose had given him away.

    [*] St. Martin, a Roman soldier, was baptized as an adult and became a monk and a pacifist. He's the patron saint of soldiers. By an eerie coincidence, World War I's Armistice began on November 11 - which did not exactly go unnoticed.

    (Indeed, Martinmas celebrations often started on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month - a turn of phrase since carried over to the Armistice.)

    Thank you very much for this ride through political, economic and religious history!

    Jeff Deutsch

  6. I started looking for
    medieval harvest festival november
    but got too many recent events with medieval themes.
    After a couple of minutes I switched to
    "11th century" harvest festivals november
    and found
    describing Moussem Aydoud on Friday, November 30, 2012

    Cultural festival celebrating the date harvest and the traditions of the Berber tribes of Bouniat region.

    Moussem Aydoud originated in the 11th century as a harvest festival and celebration of the Berber tribes of the Draa Valley. It sadly died out in the 1950s when successive years of drought led to a mass migration from the area in search of income.

    In 2011 the Association for the Culture and Development of Bouniat revived this important cultural event as a way of preserving their heritage, showcasing their traditions and stimulating the local economy of this remote rural region. The new Moussem Aydoud is an international festival featuring workshops, children's events and international peformers as well as traditional music, dance, food and more.

    I would guess that dates are served. I suspect that there are dozens of other harvest festivals in the Northern hemisphere that can plausibly be argued to have been celebrated more or less continuously for the last 1000 years. With such a vague prompt, there is not much chance of getting the "right" answer—at best one can get an "acceptable" answer.

    1. When I look for Moussem Aydoud 2012, I find that it's being celebrated in October. It was also suspended in the 1950s, so it's not *quite* continuous. But you're right... there ARE a lot of such festivals.

  7. A Google search for "indian celebration of thanksgiving october" - I was guessing at India! - brought up a very useful Wikipedia article which had a link to Chuseok where I found the traditional fare eaten at this harvest festival running since it is believed to have started during the reign of the third king of the kingdom of Shilla (57 BC - AD 935)

    Traditional food eaten at the Korean festival of Chuseok are: songpyeon (송편), a crescent-shaped rice cake which is steamed upon pine needles. Other foods commonly prepared are japchae, bulgogi and fruits.

  8. I have not been able to search with my search-buddies for the last couple of weeks, things just came up.
    I saw the great research question our Obi-Wan of Google Search posted this week. Even though I did not get to participate, reading the answers and the research that Dr. Russell posted was almost as good. Thanks to all that did the research and posted answers.

    I wish you a Happy Harvest festival, whether you eat goose, rice, turkey, or peanut butter.

  9. google search - "harvest celebration" november

    first link - Thanksgiving - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    text search for november - locate - Japan Labor Thanksgiving Day

    google search - kinro kansha no hi celebration

    fourth link - Labor Thanksgiving Day - Calendar 11

    festival - Kinro Kansha no Hi

    Traditional food - Rice

    Reason - The origin of the ritual is believed to be much older, going back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago.

    Total time - 20 mins