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Ancient Greek & Greek-American Thanksgiving Traditions

(L)Thanksgiving Turkey; Ancient Greek Woman during Thesmophoria (R)

Thanksgiving day is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. We give thanks not only for our wonderful provider mother earth, but also for our ancestors having found the new world. The holiday may have been religious in origin. Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday in North America. In Canada, Thanksgiving  is celebrated on the second Monday in October. In the United States it falls on the fourth Thursday of November.

For thousands of years festivals for giving thanks have been taking place in many locations around the world. In ancient Greece when the underworld god Hades abducted the young maiden Persephone, her mother Demeter wouldn’t feed the world, and winter came upon the land. When Persephone was restored an elated Demeter gave the gift of agriculture to mankind.

The Greeks believed that because of her that the earth provided the bounty it did.  Honoring her with offerings and ceremonies would promise a new and fresh harvest each year. The holiday dedicated to Demeter was called Thesmophoria.  Demeter was also called Thesmophoros because she gave certain thesmoi ‘laws’ to mankind. The festival Thesmophoria, was held in the fall during a month known as Pyanopsion.  It occurred in October into November; in the same months as the Canadian and U.S. Thanksgivings.

Today Greeks in America and Canada not only celebrate the “Thesmophoria”, but also add Greek flavor to the American Thanksgiving tradition. Ask any Greek and they will give you a variation on how to cook the roast. The most popular one is to stuff the animal with another animal, adding ground lamb in the turkey.  To access the recipe please click here.

Dishes present on a Greek Thanksgiving table that are not part of the American tradition:

Tzatziki: Greeks have tzatziki as a side dish with many meals. Tzatziki is a combination of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic. It can be eaten with bread, veggies or alone.  It accompanies many Greek dishes

Feta: Greeks add feta cheese to most meals.

Please add you ideas and comments from your Greek-American Thankgiving experiences.

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