Sunday, June 7, 2009

Have a Strawberry Thanksgiving


Run outside and Look up! in the sky. It's the Strawberry Moonbeam and it's coming to take you away to the land of Cockaigne where the streets are paved with pastry ... and no one ever gets old.

Cockaigne was the Big Rock Candy Mountain of medieval Europe, where the living was easy and the land flowed with milk and honey. This mythical country had houses of barley sugar, roofs of cakes, rivers of wine, and streets paved with pastry; buttered larks (a delicacy of the period) fell instead of rain; roast geese passed slowly down the streets, begging to be eaten; even better, shops provided goods without asking for payment. (source)

Such lunacy, what can I tell you? I'm a moon girl and the full moon of June is my favorite full moon of all. What's not to love about June in the land of plenty? So what if the sky isn't raining cheese. Food is plentiful and the Strawberry Moon is on the rise. Oh, you may not be able to see it right now because in North America it is beneath the horizon. Take my word for it. At precisely 2:12 PM, in New York and Pennsylvania, the Strawberry Moon will begins its sail across the sky. When will you be able to feast your eye on the glistening Strawberry Moon? Well, you can check right here, however, remember, if you live in China, June is the month of the Lotus Moon. European visitors will be in search of the Rose Moon.

The sixth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar is called the Lotus moon. In Peking, the birthday of the lotus is celebrated on the 24th day of the sixth month, according to Burkhardt. People flock to see the pink lotuses blooming in the lakes around the Winter Palace with the same enthusiasm the Japanese bring to cherry-blossom viewing. The sight of the lotus blooming in ponds and moats signifies that prayers to the Dragon-Prince have been answered and there will be sufficient moisture for an abundant harvest.(source)

When Berries Were Gathered

Strawberry Moon

The unique seasonal names for the full moons were entrusted to us by the Native Americans of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The indigenous American natives kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Names were given to the entire month in which each full moon occurred. There were some variations in the moon names, but in general the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior.

Long before the arrival of Colonists, multi-tribal celebrations took place at particular times of the year. Native people celebrated as many as thirteen thanksgivings throughout the year including "Strawberry Thanksgiving" and the "Green Corn Thanksgiving" festivals. These summertime gatherings drew Native people together after having been separated by a long winter. On Strawberry Thanksgiving the bounties of the harvest were shared while songs, dances and stories were celebrated as a reminder to all, of the generosity of the Creator's gift of food. Since the first fruit of of the new growing season is the wild strawberry, the natives adopted it as a symbol of the Creator's renewed promise of provisions. This was their way of showing appreciation to mother earth and their creator. Each tribe had its own music and dance to coincide with the thanksgiving celebration.

The Great Law of the Iroquois:
...The recognized festivals of Thanksgiving shall be the Midwinter Thanksgiving, the Maple or Sugar-making Thanksgiving, the Raspberry Thanksgiving, the Strawberry Thanksgiving, the Cornplanting Thanksgiving, the Corn Hoeing Thanksgiving, the Little Festival of Green Corn, the Great Festival of Ripe Corn and the complete Thanksgiving for the Harvest. Each nation's festivals shall be held in their Long Houses.
...When the Thanksgiving for the Green Corn comes the special managers, both the men and women, shall give it careful attention and do their duties properly.
...When the Ripe Corn Thanksgiving is celebrated the Lords of the Nation must give it the same attention as they give to the Midwinter Thanksgiving. (source)

Iroquois Uses of Maize and Other Food Plants: (1910)
Fragaria was so appreciated by the Iroquois that the fruits were considered symbolic of their deities' beneficence and used in the Strawberry Thanksgiving. Strawberries are eagerly gathered in the spring and eaten by every one as a spring medicine. Handsome Lake, the prophet, commands their use for this purpose in his code...Quantities are gathered and brought to the feast- makers at the Long House for the Strawberry Thanksgiving. This is an annual ceremony of importance though it lasts but a day. 
"We waited to drink the red strawberry juice and to confess our sins. The Iroquois believe the strawberry plant came directly from Heaven.  When someone almost dies they say, “I almost ate strawberries.”  Strawberries grow on the path to the Creator’s house.  Strawberries are special to my people.  They are used in this forgiveness ceremony every year in the ancestral religion of my Iroquoian people."

The constitution of the Five Nations: (1916)
...The recognized festivals of Thanksgiving shall be the Midwinter Thanksgiving, the Maple or Sugar-making Thanksgiving, the Raspberry Thanksgiving, the Strawberry Thanksgiving, the Corn- planting Thanksgiving, the Corn Hoeing Thanksgiving, the Little Festival of Green Corn, the Great Festival of Ripe Corn and the complete Thanksgiving for the Harvest. source

The Strawberry Moon of early summer is celebrated wherever strawberries are grown. Strawberry Thanksgiving plays an important role in the reaffirmation of cultures, traditions and communities both in the past and present. The Thanksgiving address is included in the Oneida Nation Opening Prayer:

Time of Abundance - Ceremonies: This ceremony has to do with giving thanks, honoring and acknowledging the wild strawberry as well as all other berries.  The wild strawberry is the first fruit to ripen...In our Creation Story, it says that this berry originally came from the Creators world. This day is set aside to make a strawberry to be used as a medicine. Prior to drinking it we are to give thanks to our Creator for all the things he has given to us...A boy is chosen to pass it out to the men and a girl for the women. During this ceremony, two Great Feather Dances are done, one before we drink the medicine and one after. source

And a message from Snow Owl and the The Moon of Ripening Berries from the Manataka America Indian Council.

The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance which gave thanks to the Creator for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown. Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year. When the Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them!

One of the many traditional Thanksgiving celebrations held by the Wampanoag, the natives who shared bounty with the English colonists in the autumn of 1621, is still celebrated at the Plimoth Plantation the last Saturday in June. It includes singing, dancing, mishoon (boat) races, and traditional football. (I've left a few resources for Strawberry Thanksgiving celebrations in 2009 below.)

The Strawberry Thanksgiving Ceremony involves an Native American legend of the strawberry as a symbol of friendship. In honor of the first berry of the year, it also impresses upon the acts of forgiving and forgetting. The Cherokee Indian Strawberry Legend is yet another lesson.

The legend of Strawberry Thanksgiving teaches about relationships and forgiveness. "A Native American girl and her brother were best friends and enjoyed playing together. On a walk in the woods one day, they disagreed on which path to follow. The girl angrily went her own way. She soon realized that she was lonely without the companionship of her brother and started to weep. Her tears fell on small bushes in straw. Strawberries grew where her tears landed. She gathered them to share with her brother. Now whenever people eat strawberries, they must forgive those with whom they have disagreed."
The rose is a rose,

And was always a rose.

But the theory now goes

That the apple’s a rose
The Rose Family 
~Robert Frost~

Astronomy, religion, and timekeeping have always been closely entwined. Since the lunar month is about 29.5 days, the dates of the full moon change from year to year. In the calendar of some Native Americans, Strawberry Moon is the European month of June. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own full moon names. The French call this moon la lune rose, which translates into English as "the rose moon." Ironically, like apple and cherry trees, the strawberry is a member of the rose family. And, June, dear visitors, is National Rose Month. In Roman mythology, the rose has a legend of its own:

The story goes that during the Roman empire, there was an incredibly beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe. Her beauty drew many zealous suitors who pursued her relentlessly. Exhausted by their pursuit, Rhodanthe was forced to take refuge from her suitors in the temple of her friend Diana. Unfortunately, Diana became jealous. And, when the suitors broke down her temple gates to get near their beloved Rhodanthe, she also became angry, turning Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns. source

Recipe of Friendship

Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, knew the indigenous people well, noted a recipe for Wuttáhimneash Strawberries “This Berry is the wonder of all Fruits growing naturally in these parts: It is of it selfe excellent: so that one of the chiefest Doctors of England was wont to say, that God never did make a better Berry: In some parts where the Natives have planted, I have many times seen as many as would fill a good ship within few miles compasse: The Indians bruise them in a Mortar, and mixe them with meale and make Strawberry bread.” The colonists took note of this recipe and developed their own which is the supposed origin of strawberry shortcake.

From Roger Williams Key Into the Language of America (1642), describing the Wampanoag's mixing of cornmeal with dried or fresh berries:

Sautaash are these currants [huckleberries] dried by the natives, and so preserved all the year, which they beat to powder, and mingle it with their parched meal [cornmeal], and make a delicate dish which they call sautauthig; which is as sweet to them as plum or spice cake to the English.  They also make great use of their strawberries having such abundance of them, making strawberry bread, and having no other food for many days. source

The floral moon of June is time for strawberry gathering and the focus of a Strawberry Thanksgiving Festival is naturally the strawberry and all it's luscious splendor. The wild berries that were harvested by Native Americans were not the same berries as we now grow. What we grow is a cross between American strawberries and European alpine strawberries. Native Americans believed the "nourishing essence" should be drunk especially by children and the elderly as it is said to be a powerful medicine.

According to the Wisconsin Berry Association, the flavor of strawberries are influenced by the weather and the state of ripeness when harvested. When you pick strawberries, you should pinch the stem between your thumb and forefinger and pull with a twisting motion leaving the stem on the fruit. They also recommend not washing strawberries until you are ready to eat them and a bit of strawberry trivia. Did you know, there are 200 seeds in a strawberry and they are the only fruit with their seeds on the outside! Get your fresh strawberry primer over @ the Luna Cafe

Public suppers are a New England tradition that some believe were inspired by many of these seasonal festivals. Maple sugaring parties and strawberry suppers, spaghetti dinners and wine suppers were a very fashionable means of entertainment that are anchored in the many local fund raising suppers still enjoyed throughout the US. I've chosen to share a few strawberry beverages with you in celebration of the sweet nectar of strawberries. I hope you don't mind. First, how could I resist this vintage recipe for Strawberries à la "Bridge" which includes champagne and marshmallows? I'm trading in my winter Mojito for this spring gem, Strawberry Mojito Okay, so I found it difficult to turn my back on the Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Cream Cheese Pound Cake and Strawberry Coulis. I mean really, can you? I got the biggest kick out of Sara's Dirty Little Secret so I grabbed her recipe link for Strawberry Bellini a new favorite of mine. It seems she's a fan of the show The Real Housewives of New York so I told her about the cocktail contest over @ Coco Cooks. Personally, I've never seen the show. My contribution to this line of fresh strawberry beverages is not a drink recipe at all. It comes from a cookbook titled A Cookbook for Lovers. The suggested menu appeals to the radiance of moonlight observed during the Strawberry Moon, another culinary enticement this moon girl just can't endure. From the book: (click to enlarge)

Chicken Mollina
April Peas
Strawberry Rum Flame
Wine: Pinot Chardonney
If you and your afficionado share a passion for blazing desserts, this dinner should light up your souls. You can warm up first with spicy Chicken Mollina and then fan the flames with Pinot Chardonney. The finale is a blaze of glory--Strawberry Rum Flame.

So, if you look at the moon and it's huge and pink, you might just be looking at the Strawberry Moon or the Honey Moon or the Planting Moon...a vine of moons for the month of June taking you off to Candyland or the Garden of Paradise in the land of Cockaigne! Yes, I'm a mystical moon girl enchanted by the magic of June’s full moon. Perhaps, it's because my birthday is in JUNE!!! Have a Strawberry of a Thanksgiving

If the Earth were the size of an orange, how far away would a strawberry moon be?

Tidbit: The authors of the famous Joy of Cooking cookbook named their country home near Cincinnati, Ohio, "Cockaigne." They included the term on many of their "old family favorites" included in the cookbook. It is explained in the foreword of the 1975 edition of the cookbook which I don't happen to own, yet!

...The house has many rooms and halls;
Pies and pasties form the walls,
Made with rich fillings, fish and meat,
The tastiest a man could eat.
Flour-cakes are the shingles all
Of cloister, chamber, church, and hall.
The nails are puddings, rich and fat---
Kings and princes might dine on that.
There you can come and eat your fill,
And not be blamed for your self-will...

Strawberry Thanksgiving Resources
Strawberry Thanksgiving Ceremony The Tomaquag Museum in Rhode Island (June 14, 2009)
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center-Strawberry Thanksgiving, CT (June 12, 2009)
Patuxet Strawberry Thanksgiving Plymouth, MA (June 20, 2009)

Note on images: After a beautiful Saturday afternoon of taking many many pictures of store bought strawberries, I placed some of them in a teeny tiny wild strawberry patch on my front lawn here in Westhampton. Instead of me watching everyone on the tennis courts each weekend, this weekend they got to see me do all kinds of poses to get the "right" picture. Oh, okay, so I'm no photographer:) My rendition of the strawberry moon took a few more hours with an abundance of help from the Make Your Own Kaleidoscope site. Very Cool!

Additional Resources
1. Cockaigne @ wiki
2. Full Moons: What's in a Name? (from National Geographic)
3. This Month in Astronomy
4. Full Moon Names and Their Meanings (Farmer's Almanac)
5. Strawberry Thanksgiving (a teacher's resource)
6. The Rose Family by Robert Frost
7. This Garden is Illegal
8. Taming the Wild Strawberry (history, trivia, recipes ets.)
9. Native American Recipes
10. "Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks in New England"


  1. The moon was indeed full last night, and wait until you see how my family celebrated Strawberry Thanksgiving, Louise! Stay tuned to CT!

  2. What a fascinating post! All your posts are, but I really liked this.I learned sevral new things.BTW thank you for the shout out. I see I'm not alone in this tv show madness.:-)

  3. You always make my day! Thanks Louise! Strawberries are greeaaat!

  4. Mmmmm... we've been having fresh strawberries from the farmers' market for the last couple weeks, and they've just kept getting better. I guess it's the moon :D

  5. I'm extremely sorry to be missing strawberry season. I guess there's always next year?

  6. I feel so smart everytime I come here.

  7. I can hardly wait T.W. I know it's going to be a blast!

    I'm glad you enjoyed it Courtney. It was fun to post. I discovered so many new things too!!!

    Hey Kasha, and you make mine with your visits. Thanks for dropping by. Eat a strawberry or two or three...

    I don't know if it's the moon Erica but I tell ya, there's an abundance of strawberry stands here in PA too!!!

    Oh Adele, I'm sending strawberries your way. Catch them!!!

    Do the "kiddies" like strawberries, Duckie?

  8. Wow! Who knew? Not me!

    Interesting post, Louise. :)

  9. I sense a poem in the future, Karen...


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise