Cranberry Thanksgiving: Last Fresh Fruit Harvest of the Season
Autumn is the traditional time for the cranberry harvest across New England. Native Americans celebrate many “thanksgivings” throughout the year to honor what nature provides each season. Many tribes in New England celebrate the Cranberry Thanksgiving, including the Mohegan, Narragansett, Mashpee, and Aquinnah Wampanoag.
CRANBERRY DAY - HISTORICAL
Cranberry Day is our most important tribal holiday. Long ago, Cranberry Day included many days of harvesting and feasting in celebration of the cranberry harvest. It was held in encampments on the north side of Aquinnah in Lobsterville, where the cranberry bogs are found. Many of our elders tell about the preparation for moving to Lobsterville and how much they looked forward to riding in the ox carts and the singing and dancing that would take place after a long day of cranberry harvesting. There were food tents with quahogs, chowder, venison, and dancing. In those days, the cranberries were then shipped by catboat and traded in New Bedford to obtain goods not found in Aquinnah, like sugar and molasses.
CRANBERRY DAY - PRESENT
Today we continue Cranberry Day in the same spirit and tradition as our ancestors. Each year on the second Tuesday in October, children from Aquinnah Wampanoag families are excused from school to participate in the traditional gatherings of Cranberry Day. Elders harvest with the youth and during lunch, around a large open fire, tell of past Cranberry Days, as well as legends and history taught to them by their elders. During the evening there is a large community potluck with singing and dancing to celebrate and give thanks to the Creator for another year's harvest.
Check out the children’s book “Cranberry Day” by Janette Vanderhoop (Aquinnah Wampanoag) to share the Wampanoag tradition with your classmates. Janette is former director of Aquinnah Cultural Center on Martha's Vineyard.
Learn more about Cranberry Thanksgiving and the tradition of Many Thanksgivings HERE from NPR.