In America, over the last week, people have been celebrating THANKSGIVING.
Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks for the things that people have at the end of the harvest season. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.
In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is part of long weekend which usually marks a break in school and college calendars. Many workers (78% in 2007) are given both Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. The day after Thanksgiving is known as the unofficial holiday, Black Friday: the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Many shops open very early (typically 5 A.M.) and offer special deals to draw people to their stores.
Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. Turkey is the main part of Thanksgiving dinners (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes known as “Turkey Day”). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie are commonly eaten at Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving started in 1619. On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed annually as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the first service of thanksgiving. Over the centuries it has become a very important holiday in the United States and most families enjoy the opportunity to spend time together during the cold months, eating nice food and having a rest from work or school before the mad Christmas rush begins.
Last week, we received an email from Akron, Ohio, that told us of some of the plans in place there for Thanksgiving…
“Over here, millions of Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving. This holiday is spread out though, people travel more now than at Christmas or New Year. My dad is volunteering in a mission tomorrow, working in the soup kitchen. We will be heading to my best friend’s place as she is having approximately 40 people over to share a meal. My two brothers are hooked up in Orlando, Florida with their families. On Friday we’ll all get together with my family. Then, on Saturday, we’ll kick-it at my cousin’s house!”
It is an incredibly busy time and – as the email tells us – is almost more celebrated than Christmas or New Year!
Here, in Scotland, we also have more low key celebrations at the end of the harvest. In schools and churches all over the country, there have been Harvest Services and Harvest Festivals. This tends to be marked by children and families donating food stuffs to be collected for distribution amongst the elderly in the community. More recently, some schools have put on performances or plays connected to the theme of sustainable development and famine in the Third World. However, Harvest Thanksgiving in Scotland is not a holiday as such.
We will be celebrating St Andrew’s Day on November 30th. St. Andrew’s Day is the feast of Saint Andrew, celebrated always on the 30th November each year. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day, although Burns’ Night has traditionally been more widely observed.
However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated the Day as an official bank holiday.
We will not, however, be off school on the 30th of November and most adults will still have to work. So we decided to investigate how St Andrew’s Day was being celebrated in our community…
* What did we know of St Andrew?
* What is being done in East Lothian to promote St Andrew’s Day?
* What are we doing in our school?
* Do people think St Andrew’s Day should be a big public holiday?
In the Herald newspaper on November 23rd, it said that a number of local attractions would be open to the public, free of charge, here in East Lothian.
Dirleton Castle, Inveresk Lodge Garden, Musselburgh and Tantallon Castle are all going to be freely open to the public on St Andrew’s Day.
We also found on the Scottish Government website that Athelstaneford Primary are organising a lunchtime cafe and raffle in the village hall with support from the Parent Council and many local businesses. The school are having a special enterprise day to help create Scottish decorations for the hall. They will also be raising their new flag.
ATHELSTANEFORD has a special place in Scotland’s history.
According to legend, the Pictish King Angus was marching southwards with his army, when they found themselves confronted by a larger force under an English leader called Athelstan. Defeat seemed almost certain, but after Angus and his men had prayed for deliverance, the appearance in the blue sky above them of a white cloud in the shape of a saltire or St Andrew’s Cross seemed to promise that their prayers had been answered. Angus vowed that if they were victorious that day, St Andrew would forever after be their patron saint. When the Scots did indeed win, Angus remembered his promise, and so Andrew became our patron saint and his cross our flag.
At the western end of the village lies the Church of Scotland Parish Church, which was originally built in 1176. The present building dates from 1780. One of the fine stain glass windows in the Church is of St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland. Within the burial ground of the Church, the SALTIRE MEMORIAL is located.
We also read that Campie Primary, in Musselburgh, will be having a whole school activity entitled ‘Proud To Be A Scot: Proud To Be A Citizen Of The World’. The work will celebrate the landscape, people, language and music of Scotland and Africa.
On the website ElectricScotland we learned that Andrew was a fisherman – this ties in nicely with our ELP cross curricular theme, WE were fishermen ourselves only last week!
We discovered that Andrew was the first disciple called by Jesus and that he was also crucified. However, Andrew did not believe he was good enough to be crucified on the same kind of cross as Jesus – and so he died on a diagonal cross like the one on the Scottish Saltire.
Andrew is traditionally thought to have worn blue clothing when he was a follower of Jesus and because of this, the (Saltire) flag of St Andrew became a white diagonal cross on a bright blue background.
We also discovered from The St Andrew Society that some of the saint’s bones are to be found in the place called St Andrews which lies on our river, the River Forth. Nobody is sure how they got there and more than one legend has been told about the transfer of Andrew’s bones to Scotland.
The country’s political independence, restored by the heroic efforts culminating in Bannockburn, was given its most eloquent expression in the Declaration of Arbroath, and in 1385 an Act of Parliament established the statutory position of the St Andrew’s Cross as the national flag which any Scot is entitled to fly or display.
The Arbroath Declaration (1320) relates with pride the country’s link with St Andrew and the scene of his missionary labours:
“Among other distinguished nations our own nation, namely of Scots, has been marked by many distinctions. It journeyed from Greater Scythia… but nowhere could it be subjugated by any people…it acquired, with many victories and untold efforts, the places which it now holds, although often assailed by Norwegians, Danes and English.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ…called them…almost the first to his most holy faith. Nor did he wish to confirm them in that faith by anyone but by the first apostle by calling, …namely the most gentle Andrew, the blessed Peter’s brother, whom he wished to protect them as their patron for ever”.