Thanksgiving 2020

The cycle of the year brings us around again. The year known as 2020 has been tough for everyone across the planet. Perseverance is a noble virtue, so we go on. We do the things we need to do. We face the challenges with a frightening laugh and rend those challenges with our bare hands (being sure to sanitize afterward). There is much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a traditional harvest festival. People have done this for as long as there have been people. The American version has been dressed up as uniquely American and is idealized and commercialized as such things often are, but that doesn't change what harvest festivals are really about.

To folks in earlier times, summer was a time of productivity. In northern climates, summer meant the weather was not necessarily trying to kill you every day. One could find edible things, both plant and animal, growing in the wilds or in the fields. The sun provided warmth and light for very long days. Unless you experienced a raid from the neighbors, or a plague, summer was a really great time.

Winter, however, lurked around the corner, stalking and awaiting the diminished sun. It brought with it short, dreary days, and cold that crept through your meat and into your bones. Food no longer sprung from the Earth; if you hadn't stored enough then starvation would consume you before the spring. Only fire and shelter kept you from freezing, so you had better have taken care of that while it was warm out. It was a cold season, a wolf season.

At harvest, the folks gathered all they could and prepared it for the coming cold. If they were lucky, they had enough for the winter and a little left over. This was particularly true for livestock. You needed animals in the spring to breed and make more animals. Those animals needed food and shelter over the winter. If you were fortunate, you could feed and house the ones you kept and you had extras that you could not. Those extras became food, stored the best you could for the winter.

Seeing all the gathered food, and knowing that it either was or was not enough to last until spring, put people in a mood. This was the time of the harvest festivals. You celebrate the good summer while preparing to boldly face down the coming winter. Gather everyone and contribute to the feast as you can. Welcome the Gods to join you and give them thanks for Their help in keeping the Worlds wholesome.

If you are reading this, you have made it through summer (in the Northern Hemisphere). You may know people who did not. You are preparing to face the winter, knowing that not all of us will be here in spring. These are not glum thoughts, though. You may miss loved ones who no longer live and you may have concerns about your own mortality, but we must persevere and keep going. That is what we do. We charge into the future knowing that the challenges strengthen us in various ways.

Depending on your situation, gather as is reasonable. Share what bounty you have within your means. Invite the Gods and your ancestors to join you and give thanks to all. Be grateful for what you have for the time you have it. Don't worry if you don't have much to offer; the Havamal tells us not to give overly much and to not judge others if they do the best with what they have.

Harvest festivals, like Thanksgiving, are time to reflect on the good parts of the previous season and celebrate. Take the time this year to find the good things, know that you have survived the bad things, and plan to survive the next season. Thank the Gods for all They have done. Thank the elves for what they do. Thank your ancestors, even if you didn't get along with them. Just be thankful and appreciate the good parts, even if you have to brush the bad parts out of the way to see them.