Maybe it’s because of all the leaves changing from green to orange, red, and yellow around the area. Or the colder weather with its’ gray skies and recent rain. Whatever the reason, as soon as Halloween was over, I started thinking about Thanksgiving.
… Although Thanksgiving in Canada has already passed as I write this—Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, while Americans in the United States celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November. Both Thanksgivings celebrate the holiday with a celebratory feast giving thanks for the year’s harvest.
In the United States, most people think of the First Thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims in 1621; however, it didn’t become a federal holiday until 1863. (Before that, it’d been celebrated on and off since 1789 when George Washington first proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving.)
The Canadian version of the First Thanksgiving goes back to a feast observed by Martin Frobisher in 1578, when he decided to celebrate his safe landing in Nunavut after having lost one of his ships on a dangerous journey to explore Canada. Later in 1859, Canadian Protestants wanted to thank God for the good harvests, so petitioned for an official Thanksgiving day. It then went on to become a national holiday in 1957.
Whatever the reason for the feast, I think that autumn is most definitely a welcome time to eat it. Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S. calls for serving turkey as the main dish—so much so that Thanksgiving is now also known as Turkey Day. (Why turkey? Some say the practical English already used turkeys for celebratory feasts because of the birds’ large size, but that’s only one of a few theories.) As you may know, other Thanksgiving dishes commonly include mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and sweet corn. … Ah, yes, sweet corn.
Corn was new to the Europeans settling America—introduced to them by the Native American tribes. Corn—or maize—was a main staple to many tribes, brought to them most often by a corn goddess, often known as “Corn Mother” or “Corn Maiden”.
In what is known as the “immolation version” of the myth, an old woman known as the Corn Mother feeds her hungry people corn which she produces in some revolting way—often by rubbing sores off her body, defecating it out, washing it from her feet, or … uh, yeah, you get the picture. Of course the people eventually find out where the corn is coming from, and, disgusted, they accuse her of witchcraft and refuse to eat it. Sometimes she tells the people to kill her and sometimes they sentence her to death. Either way, she gives special instructions on what to do with her corpse, which results in corn sprouting in places where her body has been, or is. Thus, the tribe is left with a replenishable food source.
Another version—called the “flight version”—says the Corn Maiden is young and beautiful. She marries a man from the tribe who is suffering from hunger. Just as the Corn Mother secretly produced corn, the Corn Maiden also secretly produces corn in some repugnant way only to be discovered by her in-laws. In this take of the tale, the Corn Maiden flees back to her divine home, but is chased by her husband. Once caught, the Corn Maiden gives him seed corn with instructions on how to grow it before sending him back to feed his tribe.
So, now that you know about the rather gross origin of corn, I’m not sure you’ll want to eat it with your Thanksgiving meal. Or maybe you will? Either way, have a Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂