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Showing posts from November, 2013

Harvest Home

Happy Thanksgiving! If you live in the USA, you're most likely getting ready to celebrate a Thanksgiving supper with friends and family this Thursday. (Canadians, of course, already celebrated a national Thanksgiving holiday in October.) 

But though Thanksgiving may seem like a purely North American observance, it has its roots in ancient European harvest traditions as well as religious rites that go back to the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans even brought their own blend of solemn prayers of thanksgiving and harvest feasts to the New World when they sailed to America on the Mayflower

English harvest festivals date back thousands of years and many of the customs that started in antiquity are still practiced in some isolated areas of the United Kingdom. Called Harvest Home or Ingathering, these celebrations include songs, sermons, games and decorations using flowers and ribbons. And of course, there is a bounteous feast celebrating the fruits of the harvest.
One popular British…

Bonfire Night and Guy Fawkes Day

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Today Brits traditionally light bonfires and burn figures of Guy Fawkes in effigy to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5, 1605. That was the date Robert Catesby, Fawkes and 11 others planned to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords.
Catesby and other English Catholics were unhappy with the Protestant rule in England and the suppression of Catholicism. They remembered when England was a Catholic country, before King Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome (Henry and the Pope had a beef over a marriage annulment) and established a separate Protestant church.
After the split English Catholics were persecuted for practicing their religion. Anyone who wanted to hold office in England had to swear allegiance to the reigning monarch, who was both the head of the state and the head of the church. Refusing to do so, and especially continuing to practice Catholicism, meant heavy fines and even imprisonment. Catholic priests ran the…