Anniversaries of Abundance / Geographies of Tradition

The most famous American holiday, Thanksgiving, vs. Romania’s Harvest Festival


Thanksgiving is an annual holiday which takes place on the last Thursday of

November in the United States of America.

It was first celebrated by the first settlers who landed in the New World, after

their first harvest, in October 1621. At that time, the celebration lasted three days and was

attended by 53 Europeans and 90 members of the Wampanoag Tribe, who contributed

fish, shellfish, vegetables and beer. The purpose of the holiday was to thank God for a

rich harvest, given the harsh conditions, including those of weather, they encountered in

their first year in America.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated intermittently over time, but in 1942 US

Congress passed a law making it an official holiday, marked on the fourth Thursday of


The most important moment of the holiday is that of Thanksgiving dinner –

when families eat, according to tradition, stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet corn,

green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. People do not work on Thanksgiving, in

order to allow families to spend together. Parades, floats and other community events are

organized throughout the day. The Christmas shopping season is just beginning now.

Every year on Thanksgiving, the President of the United States gives a public

statement. Additionally, he graces a turkey in a symbolic gesture, which is permitted to

quietly continue its life in a historic farm. The annual tradition of pardoning a turkey to

celebrate Thanksgiving began, it seems, during Abraham Lincoln's presidency in the


Currently, the American holiday has lost its religious aspect, in order to allow

immigrants to participate in this old American tradition. Once associated with the arrival

of the first settlers and their contact with Native Americans on American soil, it began to

be understood more and more as a celebration of intercultural peace, family, home, and

opportunities for new immigrants.

Harvest Day

Harvest Day

Harvest Day is a beloved autumn holiday. It is a celebration of the land and the

peasant who, during this part of the year, proudly shows off the fruit of his/her work over

the last year.

The celebration of the fruits of the earth has been held since antiquity, especially

in the cult of the Greek goddess Demeter and that of the Roman goddess Ceres, and has

been present, in various forms, over time, including the Romanian folk tradition. Under

communism, it became an important date, marked in the last days of October, which

highlighted the successes of collectivist agriculture, through stands located in the capital

and in all major cities. It was also the day when agricultural products with certain flaws

were put up for sale.

At present, Harvest Day is celebrated mainly in September and October, but it

does not have a fixed date. It consists mainly of temporary markets, set up in city centers,

where stands of traditional products, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, wine and other

local products made by the producers in a certain area are found. The part of the

exhibition for sale is completed by performances of folk ensembles, which highlight the

customs, traditions, customs of the local community of different regions. Sometimes

creative workshops are organized for children and adults and various competitions are

very popular with the participants. Generally, the celebration can last two to three days.

Harvest Day can also take place in the form of events dedicated to a single product. For

example, grape must festivals are very popular, with the occasion of the end of grape

harvest and wine production, being organized especially in the wine regions of Romania.

In fact, in South-Eastern Europe, autumn is often associated with grape picking and wine

production, a very important occupation with immemorial origins. And on this occasion

there are various competitions and tastings of wine and traditional dishes, also

representing the generosity of the land and efforts rewarded with an abundance of


In conclusion, the celebration of harvests occurs in all civilizations that practice

agriculture, as a means of bringing thanks to the deities responsible for fertility and

abundance, and invoking their goodwill for the coming years. Both Thanksgiving and

Harvest Day celebrate the richness of the harvest, albeit in different ways, the first being

a family holiday, the other a community holiday. On the other hand, both reach beyond a

strictly religious or strictly communitary sphere. While Thanksgiving has an important

role in American identity, continuing to have an official state component, Harvest Day

was propagandistically instrumented during the communist dictatorship, being used as a

celebration of socialist agriculture, this making it no less popular neither then nor today.

EP.5: Anniversaries of Abundance | Geographies of Tradition

Text by Flavia Paula Stoica, museographer at the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania. Translated into English by Andreea Scridon. Presented by Andreea Scridon. Videography by Dragoș Popa.

Music source: the Ethnological Archive of the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant:


A production of the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York and the Ethnographical Museum of Transylvania in Cluj-Napoca (2021).

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All