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Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World

Photo: Media from Wix

Thanksgiving is a day to spend with loved ones and for giving thanks. Families worldwide have unique traditions that they use to show gratitude to God and each other. The Thanksgiving celebration centers on the Thanksgiving meal. The holiday was first declared on December 26, 1941, in America. It began as a day of giving thanks and libation for the blessing of the new season. It was founded on a cultural and religious basis but has grown to be celebrated as a secular holiday. Although we tend to think of Thanksgiving as a North American holiday, it turns out similar celebrations take place worldwide. Different cultures and religions worldwide practice their forms of Thanksgiving traditions, with most of them having a similar appreciation for life.

United States

Americans greatly believe that their Thanksgiving was modeled on a 1621 autumn harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. This is considered the first Thanksgiving, and today United States thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. During this holiday, friends and family come together and share a meal and enjoy each other’s company over the four-day weekend. Turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie are among the classic Thanksgiving dishes. People also enjoy going to sporting events too.


By more than 40 years, Canada's inaugural Thanksgiving celebration predates America's. An expedition led by English navigator Martin Frobisher staged a ceremony in 1578 to express gratitude for their fleet's safety. Although Canada's indigenous peoples and Native Americans conducted harvest festivities long before Europeans arrived, this is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America. In 1879, Canada's Parliament formally created a national Thanksgiving Day (November 6), later moved to the second Monday in October 1957. Thanksgiving customs in Canada are mainly similar to those in the United States, including eating turkey, pumpkin pies, and watching football with the family.


Erntedankfest ("harvest festival of thankfulness") is the German equivalent of Thanksgiving. This holy feast is commemorated on the first Sunday in October, the first Sunday after Michaelistag (Michaelmas) on September 29; different locations celebrate the event on other days in September and October. Though harvest festivals are more literal in rural areas, churches in German cities also participate in the festivities, appreciating the good fortune their congregations had that year. After church services, laternenumzüge (lantern parades) are hosted for the children in the evening. The meal served is similar to Thanksgiving Day in the United States; however, the Germans provide mohnstriezel, a sweet bread topped with poppy seed, a great Erntedankfest delicacy!


The Ga people of Ghana celebrate Howomo as Harvest Festival annually. Homowo is an African holiday dedicated to the hope that the future year's harvests will be plentiful and that no one will go hungry. Every year the chief priests designate The ‘Homowo Day.' Usually, it takes place on a Saturday in August. Families connect, and everyone in the village contributes to the common good. Out of all the veggies gathered, yams are the most appreciated! The communities celebrate the end of the rainy season by dancing and singing with animal masks and wishing for a plentiful harvest that would last deep into the oncoming year.


The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of China's most important holidays, and ethnic Chinese worldwide recognize and celebrate it. The event takes place on the 15th day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar's eighth month (the night of the full moon between early September and October). The Mid-Autumn Festival is a day when friends and family join together to give thanks for the fall harvest and pray for long life and good fortune. Because this occasion happens on a full moon day, it's a fantastic time to spend the evening on the roofs. The moon shines brighter and fuller during the Mid-Autumn Festival than at any other time of the year.


Sukkot, also known as Feast of Booths, is a Jewish autumn holiday of twofold thankfulness that begins five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the 15th of Tishri (in September or October). It is one of the three Hebrew Bible Pilgrim Festivals. Hag ha-asif commemorates the gathering of grains and fruits after the harvest season. In contrast, ag ha-sukkot celebrates the Israelites' years of wandering in the wilderness following their Exodus from Egypt when they lived in huts (sukkot). The event marks the construction of huts made of branches and the gathering of four plant species, as well as prayers of appreciation to God for the land's fertility.

Other outstanding thanksgiving traditions and observances around the world include;

● Netherland's Thanksgiving resulted from the Pilgrim’s visitation to Leiden in the Netherlands, where they stayed for eleven years. They share America's meals traditions of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

● India’s Pongal Festival, a multi-day harvest festival.

● Japan's Labour Thanksgiving Day commemorates labor and production.

● Korea's Chuseok Festival, also known as the mid-autumn harvest festival.

● Malaysia's Kadazan Festival, where rice is worshiped as the creator's extension.

● Liberi's National Thanksgiving commemorates the end of slavery in the early colonial years.

● Puerto Rico’s Thanksgiving Day shares the exact date and Thanksgiving traditions of the United States. They serve turkey accompanied with roasted pork, plantains, rice, and beans for the thanksgiving meal.


There is no doubt North America’s Thanksgiving Traditions are very popular, but we should not be blind to the fact that other cultures in the world enjoy similar traditions. Several other countries celebrate such a festival with the common denominator of the celebration being life, whether a group of people is giving thanks for a good harvest, past cultural successes, the prosperity of the family, or even praying for an excellent oncoming year. Whichever traditions you have ever been part of, Thanksgiving greatly influences the coming together of families and friends to share meals and show gratitude for their blessings. A great way of celebrating love, harmony, and prosperity.

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