Autumn Beauty, Seasons of Celebration and Give-Away

Yummmmm…  Autumn — crisp air, scented delicately with falling leaves and the smoke from wood stoves;  Cinnamon and fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce, apple pie, the last of the corn on the cob…

And what about the “feels” of autumn? Traipsing through leaves, racking them up and jumping in them; picking up a leaf and tracing its pattern; warm days, cool nights, the pleasure of feeling Mother Earth prepare for a few months’ sleep.

And how about the sounds of autumn?  Cold nights and warm blankets, football games announcing the players; the sounds of cheerleaders and marching bands; long practices — even the quiet sound of leaves falling to the ground.  How I love it.

thanksgivingOf course, to the people who lived close to the earth in our not-so-distant past, these senses that declared this time of year were all very beloved, much as they are loved today.  So much was this the case that the Iroquois devoted an entire festival of fun and merriment to autumn — and that festival was called the Harvest Festival.

Naturally, we are all pretty much aware that our Thanksgiving comes from the Eastern Indians, and in particular Squanto — and if you didn’t know about Squanto, I would highly recommend the movie, Squanto, starring a young and dreamy Adam Beach.  Sigh…

Autumn was very much loved by Native Americans.  In fact, it was one of many, many ceremonies honoring the seasons of the earth, and Thanksgiving (still a few month’s away) was part of an ancient celebration of the American Indians to give Thanks to He who is known as the Creator.

Now this autumn ceremony was common to all Eastern tribes.  And as I’ve already mentioned, these ceremonies tended to follow the different seasons.

The Iroquois celebrated six festivals, wherein they gave thanks to the Creator for all they had.  These festivals would open usually with speeches by leaders, teachers, and elders.  And of course there was much dancing, which was done not only for the fun of simply dancing, but it was also a sense of worship.  It was thought that because the Creator needed some sort of amusement, He gave the people dancing.  Let me tell you a little about some of these celebrations.

In spring — early March — it was time to collect together tree bark and sap – this was needed to repair houses and other things, such as canoes, bowls, etc.   Spring was also the time for planting.  This was the maple festival.  Next was the Planting festival.  Here prayers were sent to the Creator to bless their seed.

The Iroquois’ main food source was corn, beans and squash (the three sisters), and of course deer meat or other meat when available.  Family gardens were separated by borders that were broad and grassy — they would even camp on these borders and sometimes they were raise watch towers.

The next festival of the Iroquois was the Strawberry Festival.  This is where the people gave thanks to the Creator for their many fruits (like strawberries).  It was summertime.  The women gathered wild nuts and other foods, while the men hunted, fished and provided various meats for cooking.  Again, each festival was greeted with much dancing and merriment.  Did you know that the some Iroquois believed the way to the Creator was paved with strawberries?

The festival after that was the Green Corn Festival.  Again, the people thanked the Creator for the bounty of food that had been raised all through the summer.  Dancers danced to please the Creator and musicians sang and beat the drum.  Again there were many speeches to honor the people and the Creator.  There were team sports.  Lacrosse was the game that was most admired and it was played with great abandon by the men.  Women played games, too, and often their games were as competitive as the men’s.

The festival following that was…are you ready?  You’re right — The Harvest Festival.  By this time the women had harvested the corn, beans and squash.  Much of it would be dried.  Much went to feed families.  Husks were made into many different items.  Dolls, rugs, mats.  Did you know that the dolls didn’t have faces?  Now was the time to gather more nuts and berries.  Men were busy, too, hunting far away.  Bear, moose, beaver were all sought after and hunted.  Again, there was much celebration.  Dancing, speeches, prayer.  And of course — food.  It was this particular festival that was shared with the newcomers to this continent.

Can you guess what the next festival was?  Although this is a Christmas tree, it was not a celebration of Christmas — but if you guessed this, you were very close.  The next and last festival of the year was New Year’s.  At this time, a white dog was sacrificed as a gift to the Creator.  This was also a time for renewing the mind and body.  (Does that not remind you of our New Year’s resolutions?)  At this time, the False Face Society members would wear masks to help others to cleanse themselves of their bad minds and restore only their good minds.  There was again much celebration, much dancing, much merriment and enjoyment as each person would settle in for the long winter ahead of them.

The First Americans indeed did give this country very much, not only its festivals which we still remember to this day, but also it gave to this nation a fighting spirit for freedom.  In these times when there seems to be a forgetfulness about our American roots, it is wonderful to remember that the American Indian and the Love of Freedom went hand-in-hand.  What seems interesting to me is that our Thanksgiving festival still honors the custom of giving thanks for those gifts that He, The Creator, has given us.  To the American Indian all of these festivals contained this special element — that of giving Thanks to our Maker.

Perhaps it’s only because this one festival — Thanksgiving — was shared by American Indian and Colonist alike that set the tone of Thanksgiving for future generations.  And I do believe that the love of autumn and giving thanks for that which belongs to us has its roots in The Harvest Festival, so beloved to the Eastern Indian Tribes.

What do you think?

I’ll be giving away a free e-book of SENECA SURRENDER, to some lucky blogger — Giveaway Guidelines are off to the right here on the main webpage, and they apply to all our giveaways — so please do read them. Now, the book, Seneca Surrender, is set in the autumn, in upper state New York.  The time is around the 1750’s — The French and Indian War.  Now, I did deliberately set the novel at this time of year, because I think that I have never seen an autumn quite like those that one sees here in the East.  So very beautiful, and so SENECA SURRENDER, as well as the book, BLACK EAGLE, honor this time of year.  Here’s the link to go and read an excerpt:

Hope you will enjoy!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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18 thoughts on “Autumn Beauty, Seasons of Celebration and Give-Away”

  1. I love it when people have a wide variety of content. It keeps me interested.You have posts other than reviews and memes. (I think the memes part is a given—no one likes a blog that’s mostly memes!) But lately I’ve been getting sick of book reviews in other blogs. I do like reading them, but if I subscribe to a blog and it’s review after review after review, I lose interest. I just get sick of reading book reviews sometimes! I love your blog if you mix things up a little. Publish discussion posts, or something about your real life, or some blogging tips.

    • Hi Ann,

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. Like you, I like to read a numerous amount of things. Right now, I’m reading an historical book written around 1834 by George Catlin. I hope to do a blog about it maybe next month, or perhaps after the holiday season. In this book Catlin describes the women’s reactions to a touring Indian faction of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians in England, France, and Belgium. It’s odd to read, because women’s reactions in England were similar to the reactions women have to some rock group — the early Beatles comes to mind. Hugging and kissing them, even screaming. Sometime soon I’d like to do a blog about that. : )

  2. Hi Karen, I love reading your posts. They are always so informative and interesting . I’ve learned about diffetent tribes and their time and place in history. So thank you for that. Your books are always very much appreciated and enjoyed.

  3. I think that many cultures and peoples timed their festivals to coincide with the natural rhythm of the seasons, following the natural ebb and flow of birth/growth/death. There was much comfort and familiarity in that. I think we have lost a lot of that by becoming industrialized. I’m not saying we should return to an agrarian society. But we should try to foster that importance of nature in our society…

    • Hi Karen,

      Very insightful post. I would agree with you very much. Being in tune with nature and the world around us is so very important. Thank you.

  4. I think festivals around growing seasons likely has been around for a very long time since people have depended on sowing crops and harvests for staying alive. So I looked up harvests, and though they are celebrated in different ways around the world, supposedly the top ten are
    –Thanksgiving, Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts
    –Vendimia, Mendoza, Argentina
    –Rice Harvest, Bali, Indonesia
    –Chanthaburi Fruit Fair, Chanthaburi, Thailand
    –Sukkot, Jerusalem, Israel
    –Blessing of the Sea, Greece
    –Olivagando, Magione, Italy
    –Lammas Festival, United Kingdom
    –Madeira Flower Festival, Madeira, Portugal
    –Incwala, Swaziland

    I’m particularly interested in Lammas because it’s English, like our Pilgrim (Puritan) ancestors with the American Indians. This is what wikipedia says about it:

    “Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”), is a holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, usually between 1 August and 1 September. It is a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide, which falls at the halfway point between the summer Solstice and Autumn September Equinox.”

    Interesting to me because the Anglo-Saxons came to England between 500-1000 AD. And I remember reading a Thomas Hardy novel where the main heroine’s farm had a big celebration after bringing in the summer’s crops in southern England, not all that far from where the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England to Plimoth, America.

    So then I found this:

    –The first account is in William Bradford’s journal titled Of Plymouth Plantation and the other is a publication written by Edward Winslow titled Mourt’s Relations.
    –What is known is that the pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving feast to celebrate the successful fall harvest. Celebrating a fall harvest was an English tradition at the time and the pilgrims had much to celebrate.
    –The 53 pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were the only colonists to survive the long journey on the Mayflower and the first winter in the New World. Disease and starvation struck down half of the original 102 colonists.
    –These pilgrims made it through that first winter and, with the help of the local Wampanoag tribe, they had a hearty supply of food to sustain them through the next winter.
    –Although the modern day Thanksgiving feast takes place on the third Thursday of November, the first Thanksgiving did not. This feast most likely happened sometime between September and November of 1621.
    –No exact date for the feast has ever been recorded so one can only assume it happened sometime after the fall harvest. The celebration took place for three days and included recreational activities.
    –The feast celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621 was never actually called “Thanksgiving” by the colonists. It was simply a harvest celebration. A few years later, in July of 1623, the pilgrims did hold what they called a “Thanksgiving.” This was simply a religious day of prayer and fasting that had nothing to do with the fall harvest.

    Thanksgiving was later declared a holiday in 1777 by the Continental Congress, in 1789 by George Washington, and 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. Turkey wasn’t associated with the holiday until the 1840s.

    • Wow! Great research. Particularly about the Anglo Saxon’s. I can imagine that the harvest period is celebrated throughout the world, particularly, since, like you said, one’s ability to survive depends upon that harvest.

      Thanks so much.

      • I think it highly likely that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag did share harvest time because I found this:

        “In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, and Tisquantum and other Wampanoag taught them how to cultivate the varieties of corn, squash, and beans (the Three Sisters) that flourished in New England, as well as how to catch and process fish and collect seafood. They enabled the Pilgrims to survive their first winters, and Squanto lived with them and acted as a middleman between them and Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem.”

        “The Wampanoag people were semi-sedentary, with seasonal movements between sites in southern New England. The men often traveled far north and south along the Eastern seaboard for seasonal fishing expeditions…. The women cultivated varieties of the “three sisters” (maize, climbing beans, and squash) as the staples of their diet, supplemented by fish and game caught by the men. Each community had authority over a well-defined territory from which the people derived their livelihood through a seasonal round of fishing, planting, harvesting, and hunting…. Wampanoag men were mainly responsible for hunting and fishing, while women took care of farming and gathering wild fruits, nuts, berries, and shellfish. Women were responsible for up to 75 percent of all food production in Wampanoag societies.”

        So since the Indians were “semi-sedentary” and planted crops, their crops must have been harvested at a time at the same time as the pilgims who learned from the Indians, although the Indians definitely knew the land and climate better. I’d bet venison was the meat of the harvest meal, along with the three sisters.

  5. Hi Eliza,

    I bet you’re right. Also, if the Indians helped them to survive through a winter (and they did), then they were friendly enough to celebrate together. Yes, the three sisters were the staple of these Eastern Indian societies. Interestingly, the Iroquois history recalls that they went East to find their homeland.

    Love this kind of history.

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