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Thanksgiving Traditions Around the Globe

Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday celebrated in many parts of the world, each with unique customs and traditions. While Thanksgiving is most commonly associated with the United States and Canada, the concept of giving thanks and expressing gratitude is a universal one. 

American Thanksgiving

The most well-known Thanksgiving celebration takes place in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. This holiday traces its origins back to the early 17th century when the Pilgrims, a group of English separatists, and Native Americans came together to celebrate the Pilgrims’ successful harvest. The event symbolized cooperation and Thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, setting the stage for the modern-day Thanksgiving feast.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, though it falls on the second Monday in October. This tradition dates back to 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew gave thanks for surviving their journey from England to Newfoundland. Although Thanksgiving is not limited to North America, it is celebrated worldwide, often under different names and with unique customs.

Chuseok (South Korea)

Chuseok is often referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving.” Celebrated in late September or early October, this three-day harvest festival is a time for Koreans to give thanks for the year’s bounty. Families gather to perform ancestral rites and share traditional foods, like songpyeon (rice cakes) and freshly harvested fruits.

Sukkot (Israel)

Sukkot is a Jewish holiday celebrated in late September or early October. It’s known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. During this time, Jewish families built temporary outdoor shelters called sukkahs and invited guests to join them for meals, symbolizing gratitude for the harvest and commemorating the time when the Israelites wandered in the desert.

Erntedankfest (Germany)

Erntedankfest, or Harvest Festival, is celebrated in Germany in early October. It’s a time for Germans to give thanks for a successful harvest. Festivities include church services, parades, and a shared meal typically featuring roasted meats, freshly baked bread, and local fruits and vegetables.

Pongal (India)

Pongal is a four-day Tamil harvest festival celebrated in South India in mid-January. It’s a time to express gratitude to the sun god for a prosperous harvest. Families prepare a special dish called “Pongal,” made from newly harvested rice, and offer it to the gods.

Niiname-sai (Japan)

Niiname-sai is the Japanese harvest festival held on November 23rd. It’s a Shinto celebration where the Emperor of Japan offers the season’s first rice harvest to the deities, giving thanks for a successful year. Traditional ceremonies, including offerings, are held at the Imperial Palace. 

Thanksgiving is a universal concept that transcends borders and cultures. While the specific customs and traditions may vary, the underlying theme of expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest and the blessings of the year is a common thread that unites people worldwide.