November is for Thanksgiving
During November, some integrated skills teachers have focused on the traditions and origins of our American Thanksgiving celebration. Marian Belcher, a high-intermediate and proficiency-level skills teacher, encouraged her students to compare the American holiday to similar events in their own countries. Here are two of the resulting essays.
Thanksgiving in Japan
There isn't a Thanksgiving in Japan, although Aki-Matsuri has some resemblance to Thanksgiving. Aki-Matsuri means autumn festival. The people hope the year's crop will be abundant, so they have Aki-Matsuri. There are all kinds of Aki-Matsuri in all sorts of regions, but they have similar rules.
The participants first purify themselves (see hari) by periods of abstinence and by bathing. The inner doors of the shrine are then opened, a drum or bells are sounded and the deity or sacred power (kami) is called to descend. The ritual continues with offerings, prayers and ceremonial music and dancing. The celebration usually includes a feast, dancing, theatrical performances, divination and athletic contests.
The kami is often taken out in a portable shrine and carried in procession.
There are many countries and many different cultures in the world. Almost every culture has its own "Thanksgiving Day." The Chinese culture also has a festival about "thanksgiving." It's August 15th on the Chinese lunar calendar, it is known as "Mid-Autumn Festival."
China is an agricultural country. Farmers worship the Earth god and pray for a good harvest, when they sow the seeds in spring. During autumn, farmers also thank the Earth god for giving them a good harvest, because it is the time that the rice has matured and has been harvested. People prepare a lot of meats, fruits and flowers for the Earth god. Then they burn incense and paper money to him. The day of August 15th on the Chinese lunar calendar is the middle of autumn, so people later named this day "Mid-Autumn Festival."
On this day, the moon is always brighter, clearer and rounder than any other day, so it is also known as the "Moon Festival." The day holds a great meaning for Chinese people, because the full moon is a symbol of reunion. People associate the full moon with family reunions. Even the food, called moon cakes, served on this day has a round shape. According to custom, those people who work or study outside of their hometowns must go home if it is possible. Most people worship their ancestors, because it is the day when family members return home. After worship, the family prepares food and wines in their yard. They are watching the moon, eating the moon cakes and enjoying their reunion and life. What a fantastic evening it is!
Nowadays, in the Chinese culture, the family reunions have become more important than people's worship of the Earth god. But in China and Taiwan, there are some tribes that have their own cultures. They still worship the Earth god and thank him for giving them a good harvest. In China, these tribes have big differences in their worship. I don't know the details. In Taiwan, som tribes' ceremonies are similar to the American Indian's. Perhaps they are just coincidences, perhaps there are the other reasons. I don't know, but I think it is an interesting question, isn't it?