Thanksgiving Traditions from Around the World
Although Thanksgiving Day is a holiday recognized and celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, there are similar days and ceremonies dedicated to giving thanks in nearly every country, culture, and religion. Here are just a few glimpses into what the tradition of expressing gratitude looks like in different countries around the world.
Erntedankfest is Germany’s autumn harvest festival which is celebrated the first Sunday in October. The harvest festival of thanks, which is the literal translation of Erntedankfest, is a rural and religious event in which German towns celebrate a successful harvest with church ceremonies, music, dances, and displays. The celebration is not recognized as a national holiday on any particular day, but it is still cherished in rural German-speaking regions.
Thanksgiving Day in Grenada is observed on October 25. The holiday commemorates the anniversary of the 1983 intervention by U.S. and Caribbean military forces. Soldiers were sent to help restore order to the country following the death of their prime minister which placed the island under martial law. While the core of this holiday is based on a military intervention, which is very different from the typical idea of food and harvest, the purpose remains the same. The island celebrates their gratitude for a safe and peaceful land by closing many businesses for the day and take to the beach for a time of gathering and relaxation.
In Japan, Labor Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday dedicated to expressing thanks to everyone for all of their hard work throughout the year. The celebration, which was once called the Rice Harvest Festival, or Niiname-sai, takes place each November 23rd. It is traditionally believed that the very first celebration occurred in the year 678. The emperor dedicated the harvest to the gods and tasted the fresh rice for the very first time. Today, schools and government offices are closed in observance of the holiday, and many events take place that encourage everyone to reflect on the environment, human rights, and peace.
Chusok, is an annual Korean holiday celebrating the importance of family. Families travel from all over to make sure they are together for this three-day holiday. Similar to Thanksgiving in the U.S., Chusok festivities include preparing meals together and taking time to cherish and honor relatives, both living and deceased. Korean rice cakes called song pyun, are an essential food enjoyed during this time. Families begin preparing ingredients for song pyun weeks before the holiday begins, and it has become one of the most festive activities for the nation.
Though Australia does not observe Thanksgiving, the Norfolk Islands along the coast do. Thanksgiving here is heavily influenced by the U.S. but began as a time to celebrate the English Harvest Home festival. People gather together for potlucks, pumpkin pie, and music. A large part of the celebration consists of decorating All Saints Church and raising money to help fund the church. The festivities on the Norfolk Islands take place the last Wednesday in November.
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