For some people, today is a very special holiday for family, football, and good eating—otherwise known as Thanksgiving in America. For most people, however, today is just the day before the day before the weekend. More likely than not, this second group of people will have received a barrage of well-meaning e-mails over the past few days, wishing them a happy Thanksgiving.
In response, although some folks might admonish their American brethren for being culturally Americentric, we suggest that you take this opportunity to employ the fourth most-used phrase among English speakers in 2010 and declare this a “teachable moment” in which you can talk about other Thanksgiving-esque holidays from around the globe.
Take, for example, America’s northern neighbor, Canada. Canadian Thanksgiving is annually observed on the second Monday of October, with two influential reasons for celebration. The first reason began with an English explorer by the name of Martin Frobisher who was trying to make his way westward towards Asia. In 1578, he landed in Canada instead and declared settlement; the first Canadian Thanksgiving was thus in recognition of the long journey having ended safely (albeit in the wrong continent). The second reason why Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada is in generic expression of gratitude for a successful harvest.
Because the holiday always falls on a Monday in Canada, people often partake in three-day getaways, with a Thanksgiving dinner organized on any one of the three days. This huge meal, complete with turkey, potatoes, stuffing and pie, is similar to that of Thanksgiving dinner in America, but with presumably more eh’s sprinkled in the conversation and a lot of maple syrup dolloped over everything… or so we’ve heard.
Another country that participates in Thanksgiving Day celebration is Liberia. Because of Liberia’s unique relationship with the United States, this west coast African country has also adopted many American traditions, including Thanksgiving. For those who slept their way through history class, Liberia (also known as the “land of the free”) was founded by and for freed African-American slaves. Celebrated on the first Thursday of November, this holiday is a celebration of freedom and is a chance for Liberians to highlight the positivity in their lives. Like North American Thanksgivings, Liberia also celebrates with family gatherings and plenty of food, though the dishes vary a bit. With Liberian palettes more geared toward spiciness, cayenne peppers tend to make their way into the Thanksgiving meal, typically with dishes like roasted chicken and green bean casserole. As with most Liberian celebrations, music, song, and dance are also prevalent components of this holiday.
For Germans, the “harvest festival of thanks” is a holiday of religious celebration. Erntedankfest, as it is known in Germany, is celebrated on the first Sunday of October and is organized around church services, complete with food, music, and dancing. The evening festivities are marked with Laternenumzüge, a lantern parade for children. As far as food goes, donned with decorations made of grain, fowl or geese are traditionally served during the Erntedankfast meal, but more recently, turkey has become a commonplace substitute.
Moving eastward, there’s the Jewish Sukkot, which, according to JewFAQ.org, is a holiday with a “dual significance”: at once commemorating the historical tribulation of having wandered in the desert for 40 years and, agriculturally speaking, offering thanksgiving for the bounty of the past year’s harvest. Sukkot is a seven-day holiday, marked with feasts, special prayer services, and a custom in which traditional Jewish families dwell in booths (or sukkah) throughout the duration of the celebration. These booths are meant to recognize and honor the significance of this historical event by simulating the temporary shelters in which the Jews dwelt during their period of wandering in the desert. Incidentally, there are quite a few very specific laws for building a sukkah correctly.
There is also the Korean Chusok (also spelled Chuseok). Celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, Chusok is said to have originated from the ancient practice of oblation during the harvest moon, in which agrarian families offered portions of the new harvest to the spirits of their ancestors, who were seen as deities. That’s why, even in modern times, Koreans will flock to their hometowns during Chusok to pay homage and offer thanks to their ancestors. Full of food and games, Chusok is one of Korea’s three major holidays.
So that’s just a little taste of the different holidays around the world that are celebrated in the spirit of thanks, generosity, and eating about as much as you can without bursting. Are there any holidays that revolve around thanksgiving in your home country? How do you and your family celebrate them?
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