Most people around the world think that Thanksgiving is just an American and Canadian holiday. This is solely due to the influence of American media, movies and TV shows that showcase their traditions for the world to see. Thanksgiving isn’t just about Apple/Pumpkin pie, turkey and football as there many unique variants of this day all around the world. Sure, they might share the same idea and concept of gratitude but cultural differences, dates and meanings demonstrate how this holiday is celebrated in different places. So you can experience different stories, cultures, traditions, food and music from all around the world especially if you plan on travelling this holiday season.
Here is a list of 7 different versions of Thanksgiving celebrated all around the world;
1. Germany – Erntedankfest
Erntedankfest, the “Thanksgiving Day” in Germany, is a religious celebration in which both Catholics and Protestants celebrate and attend church services. The day falls on the first Sunday in October and like most thanksgiving traditions, Erntedankfest is also centered on giving thanks for the year’s harvest and grain. In one of the multiple church services throughout the day, giant woven baskets filled with fruits, grains, and vegetables are carried to the church, blessed, and then distributed to the poor. After more church services in the middle of the day, there are laternenumzüge (lantern parades), primarily for the children, hosted in the evenings. The celebratory food is much the same as Thanksgiving Day food consumed in America; however, the Germans have mohnstriezel, sweet bread sprinkled with poppy seed, for a delicious Erntedankfest treat!
2. Japan – Kinrō Kansha no Hi
Kinrō Kansha no Hi is an annual national public holiday in Japan. The Japanese celebrate it on every November 23rd. The festival is Derived from ancient harvest festival rituals named Niinamesai, its modern meaning is more tied to a celebration of hard work and community involvement, hence its translation: Labor Thanksgiving Day. Unlike Thanksgiving around the world, the Japanese take on the event first took place after the second world war to celebrate the rights of workers. Today, different organizations come together to celebrate with labor especially the local police officers by offering meals and gifts.
3. Korea – Chuseok Harvest Festival
Korea celebrates the Chuseok Harvest Festival on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The festival emphasizes respect and commemoration of elders and ancestral roots. Feasts with friends and family is something all thanksgiving festivals share but Koreans hold memorials in their ancestors’ towns and grave site. They make their meals from the freshly harvested rice during the season with taro soup and mushrooms.
4. Ghana – “Homowo”, Festival of the Yam
Yams are a key part of the Thanksgiving menu in the United States and Canada, but in Africa, they have a whole festival dedicated to this crop. Homowo is celebrates in Africa especially in Ghana where Yam is one of the major crops. Ghanaians celebrate by thanking the spirits and warding against famine during the harvest. The day begins with honoring the dead along with twins and triplets in the community. They also make special yam dishes with a variety of protein. Africa isn’t Africa without music and dance during ceremonies.
5. India – Pongal
Pongal is also known as the Indian Harvest festival which is a four-day long celebration in Mid- January. It is celebrated mostly in Southern India with rice, sugarcane and turmeric. The first day involves prayer and tribute to Indra, the ruler of clouds who provides rain for crops and prosperity. The second day involves puja to the Sun God in which they offer him and participants rice boiled in milk along with coconut, bananas, and sugarcane. The third day is for Shiva and Basava in which cows are adorned with decorations. Finally, the fourth day requires the women to lay a clean turmeric leaf on the ground and place Pongal rice around it.
6. Barbados – Crop Over Festival.
The crop over festival tradition started way back in 1688. The festival begins with a ceremonial delivery of the last canes, followed by the presentation of harvest crowns to the man and woman who produced the most sugarcane. Partygoers enjoy fish cakes and barbecued chicken from nearby stands, and challenge others to climb greased poles or partake in feasting and drinking competitions. The event culminates with the Grand Kadooment a parade with mummer-esque bands dressed in elaborate costumes depicting various themes.
7. Vietnam – Têt-Trung-Thu Festival
The Têt-Trung-Thu also known as the Children’s Festival is also celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar cycle. The locals celebrate it with mooncake give thanks and celebrate their families. Folklore says that during harvest, parents were so busy that this was a way to make amends for leaving them for so long. Parents would shower their children with love and appreciation, and a candlelit procession at dawn with handmade lanterns.