As an American, thinking of Thanksgiving brings about images of turkey, pilgrims, football and cornucopias decking the dinner table with overflowing treats, friends and family nearby. But the notion of Thanksgiving, the celebration of harvest, community and ceremonial festivals, transcends beyond American borders. Around the globe, thanksgiving traditions are celebrated yearly – bringing unique traditions, delicious meals and storied folklore to be revered and relished in. Today, we’re taking a glimpse into the thanksgiving traditions around the world. Join us!
Celebrated on the 15th day of 8th month in the lunar calendar, Chuseok is the harvest celebration and three-day holiday in South Korea.
For this harvest festival, Koreans return to their hometowns to honor and practice traditional rituals and pay homage to their ancestors. Families gather to offer food, drinks and harvest crops before cleaning the tombs of their family members… an act of service and honor for those who have left this world.
What’s on the table during Chuseok you ask? Dig into to Japchae, bulgogi and rice cakes… amongst many other treats!
This religious celebration on the first Sunday in October translates to “Thanksgiving Day” in German.
The day encompasses multiple church services, where members give thanks for a year’s worth of harvest and grain by bringing woven baskets of fruits, grains and vegetables to be blessed. Then, these foods are given to the poor. After mid day services are completed, latern parades, known as laternenumzüge, are hosted in the evening for children.
What’s on the table? Mohnstriezel, a sweet bread sprinkled with poppy seed is a traditional treat made for the day of celebration!
Malaysia: The Kadazan Festival
The Kadazan Festival worships rice as an “extension of the Creator,” giving the world’s people life and sustenance.
According to Malaysian beliefs, the Creator Bambaazon, generously facilitated life of on Earth by sacrificing his daughter in order to save the world’s people from famine. He buried her body throughout the land, which became the seeds of rice paddies throughout the country.
Today, Malaysians honor the story of their creation and the belief that rice gave them life by celebrating a day of thankfulness to their Creator.
On the days of The Kadazan Festival, Malaysians decorate with bright colors and fill their cups with rice wine, take part in buffalo races and agriculture shows.
Ghana: Homowo Festival
The Homowo Festival, known as the “Festival Of The Yams,” commemorates the famine and a deeper hope to never experience anything like it again. The festival encompasses planting of crops right before the rainy season and includes parades, face painting, animal masks singing and traditional dances.
Families come together with hope and excitement to bring the largest crop in their community. Everyone in the village shares their bounty and yams are the prized treat to feast upon.
Barbados: Crop Over
This traditional harvest festival in Barbados starts in June and ends on the first Monday in August – a long and fantastic national festival.
Its beginnings go all the way back to the sugar cane plantations in 1687, when slavery still existed!
Similar to Carnival, Crop Over features dancing, feasting, drinking and calypso music competitions, amongst other long-held traditions like climbing greased poles, street parties, food tents and more. This colorful, festive and fun harvest celebration truly is a party unlike anything else!
Four days of festivities to mark “the beginning of the end” of the winter season in India. Now that’s something worth celebrating!
Every year on January 12th to the 15th, Indians gather to take part in a smattering of traditions. From bathing cattle, to feasting pongal (rice boiled milk – which is where the name of the tradition comes from!), to decorations of family’s floors using rice flour – many activities are abound.
On the second day of Pongal (the most important day), Indians throw their old, worn clothes into a fire, symbolizing “out with the old.” They then dress themselves in their new clothing to “bring in the new” – all while worshiping the sun god, Surya.
China: Moon Festival
The August Moon Festival is a thousand year old tradition in China centered around reflecting on the bounty of a good summer harvest, the moon’s light and the myth of Chang O, an immortal goddess who lives there.
This thanksgiving tradition focuses on gratitude and feasting, quite like many others! However, no Moon Festival is complete without Mooncakes – the flaky, semi-sweet pastries made famous from this celebration!
Vietnam: Tết Trung Thu Festival
This September/early October festival loosely translates to “mid-autumn festival” and focuses on the innocent, purity and sacredness of children. Practicing thankfulness for their children, the Vietnamese celebrate Tết Trung Thu by lighting lanterns, dancing traditional lion dances and feasting with friends and family alike.
United Kingdom: London’s Harvest Festival
This festival, organized by the Royal Horticultural Society many years ago, highlights the country’s best and brightest agriculturalists and growers. Each year in October, farmers show off their best produce, share gardening tips, and take part in contests while visitors and locals enjoy two days of merriment, apple tasting and feasting.
Sukkot, known as the “Feast of Booths” or the “Feast Of Tabernacles” is a religious holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei – normally between late September and late October.
This day of reflection for Jewish people focuses on the emotional journey the Israelites felt during their forty days of travel after the exodus from slavery in Egypt. The story referenced in the Bible is an incredible story of courageousness, diligence and faith.
Jewish people today celebrate the Sukkot tradition of gratitude for the Israelites faith during the week long festivities of special prayer services and delicious holiday dishes.
Brazil: Dia De Ao De Graas
Brazil’s Dia de Ao de Graas (or “A Day Of Thanksgivings”) began after the ambassador visited the United States over Thanksgiving in 1949. Just like the American tradition of expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, Brazil also celebrates on the fourth Thursday of November and serves turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
Canada: Jour De l’Action De Grâce
Jour de l’Action de Grâce, known as Canadian Thanksgiving to Americans, is celebrated the second Monday of October. In celebration and thankfulness for a good year’s harvest and blessings of the previous year, family and friends gather to feast on delicious foods. The fun doesn’t last one day, though, in good ol’ Canada! During the holiday weekend, most serve their Thanksgiving meals on Sunday to extend the festivities!