Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November originated in the fall of 1621; when the Pilgrims commemorate their first harvest. The holiday has since become a day where families are consumed by disagreement and drunken friends gather to eat loads of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, before lounging in front of the TV or battling strangers during midnight Black Friday sales. But while this fall holiday seems uniquely American, Americans are not the only culture to celebrate bountiful harvest.
So how did it end up in the West Africa, Europe, and have significant in both China and Korea? Read below, and a look at six places outside of the U.S. where Thanksgiving is a public holiday. The reason behind it remains the same, to express thanks for a huge fruitful harvest.
1. United States of America
Thanksgiving has recently lost most of its original religious significance, instead it centres on cooking and sharing a plentiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple has become all but synonymous with the holiday, and may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621.
The Chinese celebrate August Moon festival that falls on the 15th day of 8th lunar month of their calendar. Chinese believe that the moon is roundest and brightest on this day. Below the heavenly moonlight, lovers speak out their heart to each other. It is also known as Women Festival. Conventionally women are considered warm and compassionate virtues and have the gift of fertility, just like Mother Earth. Unlike the famous pumpkin pie, the Chinese delicacies consist of moon-cake. Friends and relatives convey their regard to each other by gifting moon cake.
3. Ancient Rome
The Roman harvest festival known as Cerelia was celebrated in the honor of the deity Ceres (Goddess of Corn). Their festival commenced on October 4th and it was a custom to first produced fruits, grains and animals to the Goddess. Music, parades and sports extended the glee of the ceremony.
Chuseok- The celebration falls on 15th of August, which is known as Chu-Sok (meaning “fall evening”). It begins on 14th night and continues for three days. Koreans make a dish called ‘Songpyon’ unique for that occasion consisting of rice, beans, sesame seeds and chestnuts. Before having the food, the family gathers beneath the moonlight, in remembrance of their ancestors and forefathers. The children dress in long-prescribed dress dancing in circle with an inherent desire of their blessing.
Canada celebrated Thanksgiving before Pilgrims even landed in Plymouth, Mass. When explorer Martin Frosbisher arrived in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1578, he celebrated with a small feast to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World, an event that is now commemorated by contemporary Canadians on the second Monday of October. The earlier date is due to the fact that Canada’s Thanksgiving is more aligned with European harvest festivals, which traditionally occur in October. In addition, Canada is farther north, which means its harvest season ends earlier than America’s. But, besides the date, the celebrations are largely the same, with families gathering around tables piled high with turkey, stuffing, and pies.
The Liberian Thanksgiving takes its inspiration directly from the American version, which isn’t surprising given that Liberia was founded in the 19th century by freed slaves from the U.S. They brought with them many of the customs they learned in the New World, including Thanksgiving, though they eat mashed cassavas instead of mashed potatoes, and jazz up their poultry with a little spice. The Liberian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the first Thursday in November.
7. The Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles
Sukkot is the third of the Jewish pilgrimage festivals, following Passover and Shavuot. All three mark different stages of the harvest, with Sukkot signifying its end. It is traditionally celebrated outside the home in makeshift huts, a symbolic reminder of the temporary dwellings Israelites inhabited during their journey across the desert.
If you’re ever feeling especially outnumbered by your family on Thanksgiving, just remember that the rest of the world, though they may be celebrating differently, are sufferring and eating away the pain just like you.