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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 t hough 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. T he Puritans even brought their own blend of solemn prayers of thanksgiving and harvest feasts to the New World w hen they sailed to America on the  Mayflower .  "Crying the Neck," is a British harvest festival tradition that's thousands of years old and was revived in the 20th century. It involves cutting the last stock or "neck" of grain, marking the end of the harvest. (Wikimedia Commons) English harvest festivals date back thousands of years and many of the customs that started in  antiquity  are st

Bonfire Night and Guy Fawkes Day

Bonfire Night  - how Englishmen like to commemorate an explosion that didn't happen over 400 years ago (Wikimedia Commons) 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