Why one Australian Island celebrates thanksgiving
Norfolk Island is tiny, both in size and population. It is an Australian territory hundreds of miles from the mainland, that hosts fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. It has nice blue waters, unique flora, including famed Norfolk pine also displayed on their flag, and a curious story about its origin: the island was in fact populated by the descendants of mutineers from the British ship HMS Bounty. The British mutineers and several captive Tahitians had fled to nearby Pitcairn Island in 1790, and by 1856, their descendants moved there, to the larger Norfolk Island.
Of course, the islanders have a long history of cultural melange, and many speak a combination of Tahitian and 18th-century English, called Norfuk. They also celebrate unique holidays, such as Bounty Day, and, curious fact, an American-inspired Thanksgiving.
Despite a variety of harvest festivals and days of thanks fill calendars around the world, Norfolk Island’s Thanksgiving is really based on the American tradition. The Island has always been a stop for seafarers, from the island’s first Polynesian inhabitants to 19th-century American whalers.
It was 1887 when one Norfolk Island resident, such an Isaac Robinson, even became the American consul, making him a diplomatic representative of the United States. Apparently, one year, he wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thus he observed the holiday by decorating the pews of the All Saints Church with palm leaves and lemons. When Robinson died at sea, the islanders kept up the practice, which was shored up by American sailors in later decades.
These days, the tradition continues much in the same vein, despite Norfolk Island celebrates on the last Wednesday of the month rather than on a Thursday. The island’s churches hold Thanksgiving services, as the day is a public holiday while, at All Saints Church, the pews are decorated with tall stalks of corn.
In addition, Norfolk and church attendees place fresh fruit and vegetables along the aisles, a testament to the local practice of almost complete agricultural self-sufficiency. Interestingly, despite the harvest symbolism, November is springtime on Norfolk Island!
After the service, all the bounty is loaded onto tables and sold as a church fundraiser. Then, it’s time for feasting, whether with family or the community.
The TASTE Norfolk Island Food Festival takes place annually during the week of Thanksgiving, and includes the holiday’s unique feast on the program.
On the island, the Thanksgiving meal is a fusion of traditional Thanksgiving foods and Norfolk Island cuisine. Turkey is generally not on the menu, but cornbread is. There’s also pumpkin pie, but also multiple banana dishes, including banana pilaf, green bananas cooked in cream, and dried bananas.
Past celebrations have also included a banquet of roast meats, traditional Tahitian fish salad, corn, coconut bread, and salads.
Images from Web – Google Research