Thanksgiving Day is a time to give thanks every year for what we have and for a bountiful harvest — but this is something that the ancient Greeks also did thousands of years ago.
On Thanksgiving we show gratitude not only for all that we have and for the fruits of the earth but also for our ancestors having come to the New World. Although the holiday was originally religious in origin, with he Pilgrims thanking God and the Natives for the gifts they gave them, it is now a holiday for the secular as well in North America and is seen as a day set aside simply for expressing gratitude.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. In the United States, it falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
Ancient Greek predecessor to Thanksgiving
For thousands of years festivals for giving thanks have taken place in many locations around the world. In ancient Greece it was believed that when the god of the Underworld, Hades, abducted the young maiden Persephone, her mother Demeter refused to 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 the earth provided the bounty that it did because of her, so honoring her with offerings and ceremonies would promise a new harvest each year. The holiday dedicated to Demeter was called “Thesmophoria.” Demeter was also called Thesmophoros because she gave certain thesmoi, or laws, to mankind.
The festival of Thesmophoria was held in the fall during a month known as Pyanopsion. The ancient Greek festival occurred between October and November, in the same months as the Canadian and U.S. Thanksgivings. The Thesmophoria were the most widespread festivals and the main expression of the cult of Demeter, aside from the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Today Greeks in America and Canada not only celebrate the modern day “Thesmophoria,” but also often add Greek flavor to the wonderful tradition of Thanksgiving in the Americas.
Greek Turkey Recipe
Ask any Greek person and they will give you a variation on how to cook the best Greek turkey — or you can get Nostimo’s Greek style Turkey, below.
TURKEY 140oz / 4kg
BUTTER 3oz / 100gr
ORANGE JUICE 2fl oz / 70ml
LEMON JUICE 2fl oz / 70ml
MANDARIN JUICE 2fl oz / 70ml
MUSTARD 1oz / 35gr
For the all-important stuffing”
CHESTNUTS 7oz / 200gr
PINENUTS 2oz / 70gr
GROUND BEEF 10oz / 350gr
CHICKEN LIVER 4oz / 150gr
ONION 1 large
RICE 3oz / 100gr
BUTTER 2oz / 70gr
CHICKEN BROTH 4fl oz / 150ml
BRANDY 2fl oz / 70ml
RAISINS 2oz / 50gr
BREAD CRUMBS 2oz / 50gr
ROSEMARY, SALT & PEPPER
For the stuffing:
- Place a deep pan over high heat and cook the ground beef, and chicken liver until they are a nice brown color.
- Add the onion and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.
- Add the chestnuts, pine nuts, raisins, and rice and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the brandy and wait for the alcohol to evaporate a few moments; then mix in the butter and stir.
- Add the chicken broth, rosemary, salt and pepper and remove from heat.
For the turkey:
- Melt 3oz butter in a saucepan, and mix in the orange juice, tangerine juice, lemon juice, mustard and honey. Rub the turkey inside and out with the mixture, reserving some for basting. Season turkey with salt and pepper.
- In a roasting pan place some onions, carrots and celery at the bottom and place the turkey on top of them. Stuff all the turkey cavities with the mixture.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 370 F (170 C) for two hours then uncover the turkey and continue cooking for one more hour. Increase temperature to 390F (200 C) for the last hour for browning.
- Serve, and enjoy your Thanksgiving!