As Rick and I prepare to devour as much turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole as we can, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at how Thanksgiving, or a similar holiday, is celebrated around the world.
While most celebrations aren’t focused on turkey, many are timed to be harvest festivals or celebrate that year’s bounty and give thanks to Mother Nature and the farmers for providing sustenance during the changing seasons.
Interested in how Thanksgiving and harvest festivals are celebrated around the world? Read up on the holiday in 10 destinations, from the US to Australia!
Giving thanks around the globe
1. United States
Thanksgiving in the US is centered around families coming together to share a meal, like we say the pilgrims and Native Americans did when the Mayflower docked on US soil. Our Thanksgiving celebrations also include lots of football, parades, and turkey trots (5k races the morning of the holiday) – as well as enough pumpkin pie and whipped cream to last you a lifetime.
Our northern neighbors celebrate Thanksgiving pretty closely to how we do, just a month earlier (the second Monday of October). Though that makes sense as Canada’s Thanksgiving is supposed to date back to 1578 and was a celebration of a good harvest and safe travel. Canada has adopted many of our foods onto their menu, like turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie, as well as our tradition of watching football.
China celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, typically in September or October, and gives thanks for a fall harvest and celebrates the changing of the seasons. While Thanksgiving in America is a one-day affair, in China it’s a three-day festival where families gather to share food and enjoy each other’s company. You won’t find pumpkin pie on the menu, but you will find moon cake, a baked semi-sweet treat.
Erntedankfest, translated to the harvest festival of thanks, is typically the first Sunday in October and celebrations involve fireworks, dancing, and parades. It’s a religious holiday in Germany and generally celebrates the good fortune the church had that year, as well as a good harvest.
The church services include baskets filled with grains, veggies, and fruits which is a staple of the service and then served to the poor. Fowl is on the menu, but mostly in the form of chickens or geese instead of our favored turkey, and they include a sweet bread, mohnstriezel, as their treat!
Kinro Kansha no Hi is a mixture of Thanksgiving Day and Labor Day and has its roots as a rice harvest festival. Celebrated on November 23, it both celebrates the harvest and the workers who gather the fruits of their labor. There’s an emphasis on hard work and community during this holiday and children will often write thank you cards for public servants and municipal workers and work organizations will host events for the citizens.
6. South Korea
The Chuseok Harvest Festival, typically held in mid- to late September, blends Thanksgiving by celebrating and feasting with your family, but also a bit of All Souls Day where families visit their ancestors’ graves and hold memorials and remembrances. Togetherness, family, and community are important parts of Chuseok. The feasts include rice cakes, taro soup, mushrooms, and rice. You’ll also find celebrations including music, dancing, and Korean wrestling.
For a West African republic, their Thanksgiving is very typically American but makes sense as Liberia was established by freed US slaves in the 1820s. Though their Thanksgiving is on the first Thursday of November and is a largely religious holiday where churches hold services and families feast on chicken, cassavas, and fruit like mangoes and papayas.
8. Norfolk Island
It’s said that in the mid-1890s an American trader held an American-style Thanksgiving on the island to attract other Americans to the fun, and the locals enjoyed the event that they continue the tradition today. On the last Wednesday of November, they hold church services and then share a meal with fruits and vegetables.
Held on October 25, Thanksgiving on Grenada started after the Caribbean and US militaries joined forces to restore order on the island after a coup and army group executed the island’s socialist leader, Maurice Bishop. The stationed American soldiers talked about the holiday back home and the citizens of Grenada showed their thanks by hosting dinners in their homes with traditional American fare. The holiday is still recognized but not heavily celebrated in rural areas.
In Israel they celebrate the biblical holiday of Sukkot where Jewish families remember the struggle of Israelites during their 40-year travel through the desert. It’s a holiday centered around rejoicing and celebrating the harvest that provides food for everyone. It’s a seven-day celebration and includes prayer and holiday feasts.
Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving wherever and however you celebrate!