Thanksgiving is almost here, offering a chance to spend time with loved ones and reflect on all that you are thankful for. We typically think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but there’s actually a long tradition of harvest-time celebrations in many parts of the world. Enjoy a look at how Germany, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Jewish culture, Brazil and Ghana celebrate the holiday.
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The German harvest celebration is observed in September or October. The day begins with church services, a parade with music and a Thanksgiving procession in which a traditional “harvest crown” is presented to the harvest queen (Erntekönigin). The day continues with music, dancing and food with the unused food being distributed to those in need. In some places, there is also an evening service with a lantern and torch parade and fireworks for the children.
China: “Chung Ch’ui” Moon Festival
China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is celebrated with families gathering on the 15th day of the eighth lunar cycle. Chung Ch’ui is the most celebrated Chinese holiday and lasts for three days with a feast of mooncakes filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds, and duck eggs. The mooncake’s center is filled with a salty yolk to represent the full moon. Families and friends often exchange them as a sign of unity and peace.
United Kingdom Harvest Festival
The Harvest Festival is one of the oldest known traditions in the UK. The tradition began with Saxon farmers offering the first cut sheaf of corn and a sacrificial animal to one of their fertility gods to ensure a prosperous harvest. Today, the English celebrate by making corn dolls and a meal featuring the season’s produce. Children will take fruit and vegetable gifts to churches and schools for the elderly and those in need.
Canadian Thanksgiving is very similar to the U.S., but takes place on the second Monday in October due to an earlier harvest season. The first Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated prior to the Pilgrims arrival in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Typical traditions include decorating churches, a Thanksgiving feast, a holiday parade, watching football and of course turkey is a must.
The Jewish Harvest Festival, Sukkot
In the Jewish culture, families celebrate Sukkot. This is the last of the harvest festivals following Passover and Shavuot. The festival has been celebrated for 3,000 years by building a hut of branches called a Sukkot. Jewish families eat their meals beneath the Sukkot under the night sky for eight days. The ancient Egyptians participated in a harvest festival in honor of Min, the god of vegetation and fertility. Parades, music and sports were a part of the festivities.
Brazil: Day of Thanksgivings
Established in 1949 and known as “Dia de Acao de Gracas”, a day of Thanksgivings, after the ambassador of Brazil was inspired by a visit to the U.S. Similar to the U.S. the festivities take place on the fourth Thursday of November, but it isn’t an official holiday, so not all Brazilians participate. A typical holiday meal consists of turkey and stuffing with accompanying dishes such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn stuffing, and pumpkin pie enjoyed with family and friends.
Ghana’s Homowo, or Yam Festival
Celebrated in between May and August in Accra, a coastal region of Ghana, yams are essential to their festivities. Yams are a major crop in Ghana and commemorate a period of famine in the region’s history. Everyone wears multi-colored togas and dances with a large feast taking place with traditional yam dishes.