Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvest Feast

Thanksgiving Day in the US is traditionally a day of over-eating. Each family develops their own quirky traditions in what they eat and do on that day, but over-eating is generally common ground.
In the US, legend says early colonists did not bring enough supplies, so half of them (50) died in that first winter. But friendly natives helped the rest survive after that, teaching them to catch eels and grow corn. Before their second winter, they harvested plentiful crops, and hunted wild birds and deer, so they had full larders. And for 3 days, they over-ate in joyous thanksgiving.
Basically, they were celebrating a good harvest. And harvest feasts go back a long, long time, at least as far back as Ancient Egypt, possibly as far back as when man changed from hunter/gatherers to farmers.
It makes sense; after a good harvest of the main crop, food was abundant. There wasn’t as much work to do in the fields, so the workers had more leisure time. In some cases, the coming months would be cold and dreary. Keeping all that food in good condition might not be easy. So it was natural to celebrate in having plenty of food.
Over-eating in the fall could also give them extra fat, which could help protect them from the cold, and give them extra calories to burn, should things get lean before anything became available in the spring.
But what if future colonists landed on a planet with different seasons than Earth? For instance, the winters are so mild, this is when the crops grow. Harvest is held during increasingly hot days, as the climate turns into a blistering summer where Earth plants struggle to survive, and the colonists stay indoors to avoid heat stroke - or worse.
When would they celebrate? I am assuming storage of crops would not be a problem. Would they feast at the end of harvest? Gain a few pounds of fat to lug around through the sauna-like summer? I don’t think fat is a good insulator to keep a person cool.
Or would they wait until the temperature starts to dip, and they will soon need to prepare the fields and plant the crops? To do that, maybe they could use some extra calories to get all that hard work done. Plus, they would have an idea just how much food they could use for a feast.
That assumes the colonists are doing hard, menial labor themselves, not sending machines out to do it. Perhaps they are. Maybe there wasn’t room for farming machines, or the machines are broken.
Would they think things through and have a delayed feast? Would everybody agree to that, or would the question breed dissent, even anger?
Or would they just follow tradition and feast right after the harvest? Would they eventually learn to delay that feast?
I see story possibilities here.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Only our youngest son will be joining us this year, coming over early enough to help with the cooking. We won’t be watching football, so we’ll be debating which sf movie disc to put in the machine. That’s one of our traditions. A quiet Thanksgiving is still Thanksgiving.

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