Amber Waves of Asparagus

When I was growing up in up-State New York, it always seemed odd to me that Thanksgiving Day came at the end of November. Why so late? I wondered. By that time we had been having snow for a couple of months and were looking forward to the maple syrup harvest. Why didn’t we celebrate in mid-September, before the snow got too deep?

The best I could do in trying to understand this strange timing was to consider that there were probably southern states that had to be accommodated. No doubt it took longer to grow tobacco and cotton and stuff like that — not that you ever put that kind of thing on the table! — so we just had to wait.

What I have come to understand in recent years, however, is that it’s odd timing for another reason: “Harvest” is not an end of the summer event anyway. Here it is the first of July and I have already harvested asparagus, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, green peas, sugar pod peas, and gooseberries. Next week there’ll be blueberries and the week after that there’ll be beans. And on it goes.

Harvest is an on-going event and it starts even before I’ve finished planting. The Jewish liturgical year has always had several harvest festivals beginning with Pentecost in late May or early June. If you stop to think about it, we have several ourselves most places outside the big cities. How may places have a strawberry festival at the end of June or a blueberry festival in July or a corn roast in August? Maybe they do a potato festival in Maine and Idaho and an artichoke festival in California. I’m sure you can add to the list.

So here’s a proposal: let’s downgrade Thanksgiving Day to “Pumpkin Festival” and make it just one of a long list of harvest festivals instead of the whole thing. It would be much better for us anyway to spread the feasting out a bit and diversify the menu. Write your Congressperson! Here’s a nonpartisan cause to bring us together and put a whole new list of holidays on the calendar.

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