We continually find words and phrases used commonly in today’s culture, but which had roots in our earlier lives as a people who grew their own food.
This year Thanksgiving was nearly upon us when we completed the process of putting the gardens to bed. Then it dawned on me. A hoedown originally meant just that: it was the time we put our hoes down for the winter, and that is definitely cause for great celebration.
That root meaning has all but disappeared from our dictionaries; hoedown now refers to a particularly lively country jig, often experienced at a barn dance. It makes sense, though, as putting farming tools down for a few months is a good excuse for dancing madly. I wonder if that first Thanksgiving included a hoedown dance or two, for exactly the same reason.
At our house we celebrate times of completion and change. In March it’s sugaring off (the end of gathering and processing maple sap), and right now we are enjoying the delight of hoedown. We sing and dance and give thanks for another year of rich harvest and for the promise of winter rest.
Even if you’re not a farmer of any stripe, it is good to remember that somewhere, someone is putting a hoe down after working all summer so you’ll be able to eat all winter. So sing and dance and celebrate with your farmer, wherever s/he may be!