Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful time for families and friends to get together and to celebrate. Celebrate what?
Many of us tend to simply celebrate our togetherness or express our gratitude for the blessings we enjoy. The tradition originated as gratitude at this time of year for the harvest. In Britain when I was growing up it was called Harvest Festival and was centered around the churches. Parishioners shared their bounty, decorating the church with sheaves of corn (the generic term for grains including wheat and oats and barley), home-made bread, fruits, pies, jams, jellies, all kinds of good things. Often the congregation would partake in a great communal feast.
In my native Cornwall there was an older tradition, “Crying the Neck”. Some say this stemmed from ancient Egypt. The people gather in a cornfield where the harvest is almost finished. The farmer cuts the last stalks of corn, typically with an old fashioned scythe, and binds them into a sheaf.
Turning to the east he raises up the sheaf and cries three times, “I ‘ave ‘ee, I ‘ave ‘ee, I ‘ave ‘ee.” The crowd responds, “What ‘ave ee? What ‘ave ee? What ‘ave ee?” The farmer shouts, “A Neck! A Neck! A Neck!” The crowd chants,”Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” In many parts of Cornwall the ritual is repeated in the Cornish language.
They all leave the field and go to the church or chapel for a service giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The Neck is left in the church until the following spring when it provides the seed for the next planting.
I give special thanks this year for the joy given me by my historical novel The Miner & the Viscount. The pleasure has been beyond my fondest imagination. Researching the history added to my knowledge and understanding. I grew enormously as a writer through working on the manuscript. In the first six rewrites, my wife Penny helped me understand deeper character development. In the next three edits, my editor Mo Conlan helped me weave a more compelling story. What I anticipated to be a chore turned out to be the joy of incremental improvement.
On top of all that, through the interest and enthusiasm generated by the book I have made new friends, not only in America and Britain but around the world where the Cornish have emigrated through the centuries. Marvelous people with a profound interest in their origins and the world around them.