Thanksgiving, a holiday that revolves around expressing gratitude and celebrating the harvest, has a special place in the hearts of many around the world. While the United States and Canada are most famous for their Thanksgiving traditions, the essence of giving thanks knows no boundaries.
In this exploration of Thanksgiving celebrations worldwide, we’ll embark on a journey that spans the globe. From the historical origins of Thanksgiving to contemporary traditions in the United States and Canada and the lesser-known yet equally heartwarming observances in Liberia, Grenada, Germany, Japan, Korea, and China, we will uncover the rich tapestry of Thanksgiving traditions that bridge cultures and unite people in the spirit of gratitude.
History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. In 2023, it falls on November 23. It has its origins in a harvest feast in 1621, when English colonists (Pilgrims) and Wampanoag Native Americans came together to share a meal.
For over two centuries, various colonies and states held their own days of thanksgiving. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day. However, some view Thanksgiving as masking a history of oppression and violence between European settlers and Native Americans.
In 1620, the Mayflower carried 102 passengers from England to the “New World.” After a challenging journey, they anchored near Cape Cod instead of their intended destination. Many suffered during the harsh winter, but with the help of a Native American named Squanto, they learned to survive and formed an alliance with the Wampanoag community This collaboration endured for over 50 years, symbolizing a rare period of harmony between settlers and Native Americans.
Celebrations Around the World
In various parts of the world, people celebrate a spirit of thanksgiving, even though the dates and customs can be quite different.
Firstly, in China, they celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar. Families gather to appreciate the full moon, eat mooncakes, and share a special meal together.
Up in Canada, they have their own Thanksgiving. It falls on the second Monday in October. Just like their neighbors to the south, Canadians focus on feasting and giving thanks for the harvest and blessings of the year.
In Liberia, things are unique. Their Thanksgiving takes place on the first Thursday in November, and it has roots dating back to the 19th century, when freed American slaves founded the country. Here, Thanksgiving involves church services, parades, and cultural events.
In Korea, they observe Chuseok, often called Korean Thanksgiving Day. It happens on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar. Families get together to pay respects to their ancestors, exchange gifts, and enjoy traditional foods like songpyeon (rice cakes) and fruits.
Now, in Japan, they have Labor Thanksgiving Day, known as “Kinrō Kansha no Hi,” celebrated on November 23rd. While it’s not all about the harvest, this day is dedicated to honoring work, being thankful for productivity, and showing respect for each other’s labor.
Finally, in the United States, this day is a big deal, happening on the fourth Thursday of November. It all began with the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal back in 1621, where they enjoyed roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Families in the U.S. gather, express gratitude, and enjoy a big feast.
So, as we can see, the spirit of thanksgiving is alive and well all around the world, each with its own unique customs and traditions.
Thanksgiving is a global celebration of gratitude and the harvest. While the customs and dates may differ, the core message remains the same: to express thanks for the blessings of the past year and to come together with family and friends. Whether you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving feast in the United States, celebrating Chuseok in Korea, or savoring mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, these diverse traditions all share the universal value of thankfulness.