It is a holiday today in my homeland. Before I tell you what the day is called, I want to tell you a little about its history and how it has changed over time.
In present times, the day is designated as “the day to value labour, celebrate achievements of labour, and give thanks to one another for the labour offered.” We now interpret it to mean appreciating the contributions of those in the general workforce, and usually thank the breadwinners in our households. (In recent years, we have seen movements to be equally grateful for those who do not earn wages but promote the well-being of all family members staying home.)
But up until just a few decades ago, it used to be the day on which a certain individual of a family believed to be the descendant of our Goddess of Sun gave prayers to the Heavens to thank for another successful year of harvest. It was one of the biggest fests of the year, but extremely labourious for the individual, as he/she alone prayed all day on this date on behalf of every single one of us… as such, the day also came to mean giving thanks for the labour this individual offered.
But looking further back, although this fest had been held since ancient times, it was only about a century-and-a-half ago that it came to be held on this particular date on the Gregorian or solar calendar. Before that, we went by the Chinese or lunar calendar, and the fest was held on “the second day of the Rabbit of the eleventh month of the year” (don’t ask me to explain how the days were counted in the olden days… all I can say is that it was much different from ours!). On the year we converted from Chinese to Gregorian calendar, this day happened to fall on the twenty-third, and the fest has been held on this date ever since.
Now, coming back to today’s holiday, I think you can see that neither the date nor the designation in present times has much meaning if viewed in light of its history. More and more of my people today see it as just an extra day off work or school, and never bother to look into its relevance, past or present. Then, why is this day still a holiday, when many of us do not even care to know what we are celebrating?
Maybe it is kept as a record of our roots?
Maybe it is kept as evidence of changing times?
Maybe a little of both. Maybe time has forced many changes in the world we live in from that our ancestors did, but I would like to believe that there is something still surviving from ancient times and worth passing on to our descendants… maybe something captured in the name of the holiday.
Today is called “Labour Thanksgiving Day.”