Thanksgiving! What does that have to do with the English and the Norse!
Okay, let’s call it Harvest Festival. Or maybe Lammastide. Or Loaf Fest. Or Freyfest. Or, yes, Thanksgiving.
Harvest celebrations are traditionally celebrated in many cultures. Important to any culture for whom agriculture and the harvest was of great importance, and that included most cultures. Most persons, even those as important as kings, were involved in agriculture. After all, harvest would decide whether they would live, or at least be moderately comfortable, until the next year.
Though Lammas is traditionally 1 August—customarily between the summer solstice and autumn equinox—the celebrations traditionally occurred between then and 1 September, and the later American Thanksgiving was, of course in November, though the first Thanksgiving seemed to have taken place somewhere between the end of September and the beginning of November.
The ancient Lammastide, in the words of an historian, “was a way for farmers to ease their way into autumn and to set their minds upon the harvest, and first fruits of their diligent labor of the soil.” In heathen times, it was a custom to bring a loaf of bread made from the grain harvested, and even after Christianity achieved a prominence, that load was blessed by the priest and divided into four loaves, each quarter being set in the corner of the barn to protect the grain. The English called the time hlaf-mass, or the “loaf mass.” early church documents, the ritual was referred to as the “feast of first fruits.” Christians also have church processions to bakeries, where those working therein are blessed by Christian clergy. Lammas coincided with St. Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Today, many heathens celebrate Lughnasadh about the same time. It was a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and was a heathen festival that was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
The hlaf-mass was blessed in the early English church and was afterwards employed in protective rituals. In fact, a book of Englisc charms may be the origin of placing a quarter of the loaf at the corners of a barn.
What the harvest festival was called by the Norse or how it was celebrated by the heathen is most conjecture. After all, no purely Heathen name has survived for this festival, any more than most aspects of the heathen religion is known except what can be imputed by occasional verses and runestones. However, modern heathen writers then go on to describe how the first fruits of harvest were brought to the temple as gifts and in Norse tradition, the “First Sheaf was often bound and blessed as an offering to Heathen deities or the spirits of the field at the beginning of harvest, just as the Last Sheaf was at its end. English folk custom also includes the decoration of wells and springs.” // https://www.theasatrucommunity.org/freyfaxi //
For both the Norse heathens and the Englisc heathens as well as the early Christian themselves, all that can be definitely said that the amount of food was great, especially after a period that might have seen starvation and little or no food. Some food could not be preserved at the time and actually had to be eaten at the time. So we can almost intuitively note that the people—both Christian and he then—gathered together in large, convivial and warm company, and stuff themselves! May you approach Thanksgiving with the same plans and have a great holiday!