The practice of celebrating the harvest is not exclusive to the United States, though we Americans celebrate our own Thanksgiving Day here on this week’s Thor’s Day. In modern society, especially Western society, we often forget how fortunate that we are to have food and other forms of sustenance so easily available to us. We can walk into a store and buy just about any food or drink that we desire, from just about anywhere on the planet. In a real way, it’s a miracle that we have such ease. Indeed, a great deal of us abuse this. Thanksgiving celebrations serve to remind people of the hardship of our ancestors in merely surviving, and how one bad harvest could result in dire circumstances indeed. Our forebears were truly grateful when a bounty of presented itself as the long Winter approached.
The Norwegians, during Viking times, were no exceptions to this grateful sense of celebration, and have developed their own holiday to commemorate the occasion of a good harvest. For them, as for us, it’s something that started with both secular and religious roots. The Høsttakkefest has been a people’s celebration in Norway and the greater Viking-heritage peoples since ancient times. Both an agricultural and ranching sort of event, it was typically tied to the time when the livestock would be moved from the highlands favored in the Summers to the more manageable environment of the lowlands and valleys in the Winter. This act of pragmatic survival and the security that went with it were indeed something to praise, and the descendants of those hardy populations praise it still.
Of course, with the advent of Christianity in the Norwegian culture about 1600 years ago, the associated holiday of Mikkelsmess became a major part of life. Praising God for deliverance and provision in tough times became more of a focus for the Christianized Vikings.
Certainly, as time has marched on, both the secular and religious traditions have come together in the modern Norwegian holiday. It is a time to reflect on one’s good fortune and the fact that one’s community, either on the ground or with one’s creator, it shapes so very much that good fortune.
From Outbound, Happy Thanksgiving!