Celebrate Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving Around the World


As an American, I grew up hearing stories and watching movies about the Indians and English settlers celebrating the harvest together in a time of struggle, which became the first Thanksgiving. For that reason, I just assumed that Thanksgiving was another holiday relatively unique to the United States. I can’t think of too many other countries that had issues with colonists and Indians. However, it turns out that celebrating the season’s harvest is a rather common thing to do! So what is Thanksgiving around the world like?

Thanksgiving Around the World - Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

United States

Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November

The first Thanksgiving was said to have been celebrated in 1621 when the Indians and English settlers came together to celebrate the year’s harvest. The Indians were the ones who taught the settlers how to grow corn, so when their corn crops were successful, they got together to celebrate. However, it didn’t become an official holiday until 1863.

Thanksgiving started as a way to celebrate the year’s harvest and the hard work that went into it. However, over the year it has developed into more of a holiday of giving thanks and being grateful for everything we have, not just the food on our table.

It’s typical for families to have a turkey for their feast, and with that is the wishbone tradition. Typically, two people hold onto each end of the wishbone and then pull until it breaks. Whoever has the bigger piece at the end gets their wish granted.

My family, and I know several other families as well, has the tradition of saying their thanks. We all sit down at the dinner table, but before we dig into the delicious food, we all go around and say what we’re thankful for. This year I’m thankful for my blog. It’s given me opportunities I never would have even imagined existed, and allowed me to make some new friends in the process!

Thanksgiving Around the World - Thanksgiving in the United States

 

Canada

Celebrated on the second Monday in October

Canada’s Thanksgiving also started in a moment of thanks. However, the exact moment seems to be a bit muddled. Many consider the first Canadian Thanksgiving to have been celebrated by a pirate who gave thanks for a safe journey. However, others state that Canadian Thanksgiving originated with protestant ministers and people who were grateful to have been spared from the Civil War that ravaged through America. Still others say that it originated with a story very similar to the United States, a feast celebrated with Indians who had taught them to survive on the land.

Despite it’s muddled history, it’s traditions are quite similar to the United States. It is a time when families get together for feasts (usually including turkey and pumpkin pie) and have parade celebrations.

Thanksgiving Around the World - Pumpkins

 

Germany

Mostly celebrated the first Sunday in October (but not in some parts of the country)

Germany’s version of Thanksgiving is known as Erntedankfest or sometimes just Erntedank. It’s not quite as big as Thanksgiving in the United States or Canada, meaning that it isn’t really a cause for families to have a big get together. However, many cities hold a parade and associated festivities.

 

Grenada

Celebrated October 25th

Instead of celebrating the year’s harvest, Grenada’s version of Thanksgiving celebrates the the overthrow of the communist dictatorship they were once under by United States soldiers. The tradition started when many of the soldiers stationed in Grenada told locals about their holiday back home. The locals invited the soldiers into their homes to have a Thanksgiving away from home as their way of showing thanks to the soldiers.

Understandably, the holiday is not quite as large as its originating country, but formal ceremonies are still conducted in the more rural areas to give thanks and remember.

Thanksgiving Around the World - Holiday Food

 

Japan

Celebrated on November 23rd

Japan celebrates Kinro Kansha no Hi, which literally translates to “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” It originated from the Shinto festival Niinamesai, which celebrated the abundant harvests of rice and was a time to offer rice to the deities. Despite it’s origins in a harvest festival, Kinro Kansha no Hi focuses more on showing gratitude to the hard work done throughout the year and celebrates workers rights.

 

Korea

Celebrated on the fall equinox

“Chuseok” or “Hangawi” is Korea’s harvest festival. While there isn’t much record as to the origins of Chuseok, it is a holiday that has been around in Korea for many centuries, and is one of the largest holidays in Korea. It is a time when families spend time together to honor each other and their ancestors. Many will visit the graves of loved ones and even hold a special ceremony. After, they get together much as families in the United States or Canada do. However, instead of turkey, the traditional food is Songpyeon, a type of rice cake.

 

Liberia

Liberia is an African state that was founded by immigrants. Many were freed slaves from the United States who, of course, brought traditions with them. For that reason, it seems quite similar to celebrations held in the United States with family get togethers and lots of food. However, in Liberia, Thanksgiving is more than just a time to celebrate a good harvest. It’s a time to be grateful for the freedom that they have and the blessings they have received.

Thanksgiving Around the World - Ornamental Corn

 

The Netherlands

You may not know this, but before the pilgrims landed in the new world, which would later become the United States, the pilgrims spent time in the Netherlands, mostly in attempt to avoid religious persecution. Every year, Pieterskerk, the final resting place of some of the pilgrims, holds a service to celebrate the pilgrims who made it to the new world.

 

Sukkot

Week long celebration that begins five days after Yom Kippur

Sukkot is celebrated all around the world as it is not country specific but religion specific. It is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the harvest of the land in Israel as well as when God provided for the Israelites when they were traveling through the dessert.

My friend Lisa from over at Handmade in Israel is a British, Jewish girl living in Israel and talks much more in depth about Sukkot celebrations.

 

Further Reading

 


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Thanksgiving Around the World - Footsteps of a Dreamer

23 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    Enjoy Thanksgiving and being with your family. Thank you for linking to my post about Sukkot.

  2. Abby Jo says:

    Great read! I was JUST talking to somebody the other day about Thanksgiving in other countries!

    • Kiyoko says:

      Writing this post definitely sparked a lot of conversations with people I knew too. I had a lot of friends and family be like, “Wait, other countries besides the US celebrate Thanksgiving?”

  3. Ellie says:

    This is a really interesting article! Coming from the UK it’s not something I think about often, so it’s fascinating to hear about these traditions in other countries. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kiyoko says:

      I constantly find myself at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sometimes I get so used to the holidays and traditions I grew up with that I find myself surprised when I visit other places and find that they don’t celebrate the holiday or have other traditions for it. At other times, I think that certain things are unique to the United States, so I’m a little bit shocked when I find other places that celebrate it too!

  4. Sujenne says:

    Here in Curaçao we don’t celebrate this tradition. Although I would love to actually be part of it someday. It looks amazing.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I think thats one of the greatest parts about travel! You get to experience holidays and traditions that you would never get to experience back home! Plus, I feel like I get a much deeper understanding of a place when I get to actually participate in the local festivities.

  5. madhu says:

    Beautiful write up, glad to learn how even different cultures has so much in common. even in India we celebrate harvest festival , here almost every state will different festivals 🙂

  6. Max says:

    I just finished teaching a lesson on how Thanksgiving is like American Chuseok, to my little Korean students. I only wish I taught some older kids so that I could share some of these other cultures with them. They already understand Chuseok, so understanding that other cultures celebrate similar things can only lead to better cultural awareness. Not from 8-year-olds, though, unfortunately. My Korean’s not that good. 😉
    Thanks for sharing, though; this was a great read. Happy Turkey Day! ^^

    • Kiyoko says:

      I wish more schools talked about holidays around the world! Growing up in the US, I only ever heard about how the Indians and colonists came together to celebrate the harvest. I think knowing that other countries do the same would have helped me have a greater appreciation for other cultures (and not feel so ignorant when I’m traveling)

  7. Sushmita says:

    This post is very informative. For someone who hails from a country where Thanksgiving is not major festival, this post surely gave a lot of information 🙂

    • Kiyoko says:

      It’s definitely interesting to see which countries celebrate it, and which countries make it a big deal and which ones don’t. Just goes to show how diverse the world is and how much we have to learn!

  8. Ashfina says:

    Amazing write up! Wish India had this too 🙁 Here we only have a handful of restaurants doing Thanksgiving weekend special brunch / menu.

  9. Yay, good to know this celebrations all over the world and how they are celebrated. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  10. Ann says:

    Great article! I didn’t know that other countries celebrated their own Thanksgiving, besides the United States and Canada. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kiyoko says:

      I was vaguely aware that Thanksgiving was a thing in other countries, but I had no idea how much until I started doing the research for this post. It was definitely informative for me as well!

  11. Ivan says:

    I especially love the tradition of Thanksgiving! It gives you this awesome feeling of unity with the family! Here in Dresden, we don’t usually celebrate Erntedankfest that wide, but I was thrilled to attend the celebration in Munich several years ago!

  12. Bonnita says:

    its good to know this celebrations are all over the world and how they are celebrated.which countries make it a big deal and which ones do not. it goes ahead to show how diverse the world is and how much we have to learn.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I love learning about how other countries celebrate the holidays I do. It reminds me of the diversity of the world and helps me keep an open mind to other cultures.

  13. Wow! Such an enlightening post, Kiyoko. I’ve learned so much about the different celebrations around the world from your post. It seems so fun! 😉

    • Kiyoko says:

      Glad it was informative. I always think it’s interesting to see how other cultures and places do things differently from me.

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