Thanksgiving Around the World

Saturday, November 21, 2020

This is the season for reflection, gratitude, and thanks.  Traditionally, we gather with family and friends to celebrate our blessings.  But, well, you know……Covid.  Kinda puts a damper on festivities, doesn’t it???  But eventually, we will get through this!!!  Just as our ancestors have endured, coped, persevered, and overcome; so will we!!!  And that’s why we take the time to reflect and give thanks—humans have been doing so for thousands of years!!!

In North America, early in the New World’s recorded history, festivals were often held after a harvest.  And it was in Canada, taking inspiration from Europe, that the first Thanksgiving on the continent was celebrated in 1578.  They continue to do so, every year, on the second Monday in October.

Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” depicts the warmth and spirit of Thanksgiving Day. (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Or some say, it could have been in St. Augustine, FL in 1565 or, perhaps that was 1564.  Never mind. The first prominent historic Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts when the Pilgrims, along with the native inhabitants, came together in October of 1621 to commemorate the Pilgrim’s first harvest.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the ensuing tradition a National Day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.  Then, in 1942, by an act of Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the fourth Thursday of November as America’s day of Thanksgiving.

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe. depicts America’s first Thanksgiving feast shared with the Wampanoag Indians. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Today, the Plymouth Rock Monument in Plymouth, MA. is an imposing structure. (Raime, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)
However, the rock itself, not so much!!! (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

And just like the American and Canadian thanksgivings, similar celebrations rejoicing a bountiful harvest have evolved to include thanks for all our blessings!  All over the world, people come together to joyfully acknowledge all that is good and satisfying in their lives. Here are several; but there are more and if you know about them–please let us know!!!

Germany celebrates Erntedankfest on the first Sunday in October with parades, fireworks, music, and dancing.

Celebrating Erntedankfest in Gatow, Germany (Andreas M Christott, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)
Erntedankfest in Bad Gögging, 2013. (Foto: Tourist-Information) (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

China has been celebrating a Mid-Autumn Festival for more than 2500 years.  It is pegged to the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.  In 2020, it was held on October 1st.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in Bejiing (Shizhao, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons)
Traditional Chinese Moon Cakes (misbehave, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, Japan commemorates their workers and economic productivity with Kinro Kansha no Hi, aka Labor Thanksgiving Day.  The celebrations began more than 2000 years ago as thanks for a season’s first rice harvest.  But by 1948, the holiday had become a way of giving thanks for workers’ rights.

A float is under construction for an upcoming festival in Fukuoka, Japan.

Liberia’s Thanksgiving is truly fascinating!  Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1847.  The country’s culture, their holidays and customs; their government, specifically constitution and laws, are heavily influenced by the United States.  On the first Thursday in November, Liberians celebrate freedom and opportunity.

Liberian women singing in celebration. (blk24ga, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

The Thanksgiving celebration in the Caribbean Island of Grenada is also tied to America.  You may remember, political turmoil in the island nation culminated in 1983 with a military coup and the execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.  Concerned for the welfare of 800 American students attending university on the island during this pollical chaos, along with the threat posed to the island by communist influences, President Ronald Reagan invaded the island on October 25, 1983.  Many Grenadians were thankful and celebrated by serving a traditional American Thanksgiving to the American troops.  The celebration endures and October 25 has been named Thanksgiving Day on the Island.  It is a national day of remembrance and gratitude.

President Reagan pardons the 1983 turkey. (White House Photographic Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
But there is no doubt the Grenadians did, in fact, enjoy a turkey dinner!!! (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

South Korea celebrates Chuseok Day in mid to late September.  Certainly, this celebration began as gratitude for the autumn harvest.  Today, it has grown to include remembrance and reverence for their ancestors.

A South Korean table set for Chuseok Day dinner. (Namwon030, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

In Vietnam, Thanksgiving is known as Tet-Trung-Thu Festival or the Children’s Festival.  According to folklore, this holiday is held as a means of amends to the children who were neglected during the diligent labor of the harvest.  It is held on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar.  Today, the Vietnamese use this holiday to give thanks and celebrate with family.

The Tet-Trung-Thu Festival in Vietnam is the Children’s Festival. (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Norfolk Island, off the eastern coast of Australia, was a British penal colony at one time.  Frequently, whalers and traders from the United States would come to the island.  In the late 1880s, Norfolk resident Isaac Robinson served as the American diplomatic consul representing the United States.   In that capacity, he sponsored a traditional American Thanksgiving at a local church.  The tradition has persisted.  Today, Norfolk Islanders celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday of November.

Norfolk Island
Traditional Norfolk Island Coconut Pie. (https://assets.atlasobscura.com/article_images/61126/image.jpg)

So here it is—several days before Thanksgiving.  Right now, we are planning and preparing.  But gotta tell you, after this year’s traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, we plan to immediately start setting up for the Christmas Holiday.  Outdoor lights, door wreath, a tall fir tree adorned with ornaments, and lights/ candles/ bows; decorations all over the house!!!  As this year draws to a close, we plan to wrap ourselves in the warmth and comfort of the Christmas Season.

Deck the Halls; Jingle Bells; Comfort and Joy!!!

Whew, feeling better, already!!!

6 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Around the World”

  1. Absolutely delightful! A rainy day here, a wonderful blog to read and learn all sorts of new info. Your research is phenomenal and you certainly seem to enjoy it. Our benefit entirely 🙂

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Here in Canada the stores have all copies your Black Friday sales, so we feel connected to your holiday at least in that way 🙂 We have our tree up and I have shortbread dough in the refrigerator, will be making butter tart batter next. Through this mind-boggling time one thing we can still do is cook!

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    1. Thank you, Patricia!! We, too, are ready to put up the tree and decorations! Really looking forward to the fun and happiness of the season’s preparations! This is always such a great time of the year. Even COVID can’t ruin the spirit of the Christmas season!!!

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      1. Thank you!!! It will be a quiet Thanksgiving. The family is scattered and not traveling during these Covid times. But we will enjoy the traditional turkey, stuffing, and cranberries!!! Despite the pandemic, there is still a lot to be thankful for!!! Your good wishes are appreciated.

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