In the United States, November means Thanksgiving – a holiday about giving thanks and celebrating our blessings. While American Thanksgiving, with its iconic turkey feasts and parades, is perhaps the most well-known, did you know that several other holidays around the globe are also dedicated to the harvest season and giving thanks?
Keep reading to learn more about seven Thanksgiving traditions around the world.
Chuseok Harvest Festival – Korea
Chuseok, also known as Korean Thanksgiving Day, is one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays in South Korea. This festival typically falls on the 15th day of August.
During Chuseok, families come together, share traditional foods like songpyeon (also known as rice cakes made with seeds, nuts, and beans), and give thanks to their ancestors for a plentiful harvest. This holiday is also a time for gift-giving – not only to relatives but also to colleagues and friends.
The Kaamatan Festival – Malaysia
The Kadazan people of Sabah, Malaysia, celebrate the Tadau Kadazan Festival, also known as Kaamatan. This festival is held in May and is a way to give thanks for the rice harvest and honour the rice's spirit, Bambaazon.
This holiday includes traditional dances, music, and the crowning of the Unduk Ngadau, or Harvest Queen, at the festival beauty pageant. This pageant is a tribute to Huminodun, a daughter who was sacrificed in exchange for a bountiful harvest.
Harvest Moon Festival / Mid-Autumn Festival – China
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This is when Chinese families come together, offer mooncakes, and give thanks for the full moon. During this event, lanterns of every shape and size are carried and displayed, symbolizing the festival itself.
Festival of the Yams – Ghana
The Festival of the Yams, or Homowo, is celebrated by the people of Asogli in Ghana to mark the yam harvest. During this festival, you’ll see rituals, dances, and the sprinkling of kpoikpoi, a traditional dish made from corn, as an offering to the gods. This festival expresses gratitude for the harvest and seeks blessings for the year ahead.
Erntedankfest – Germany
Erntedankfest, or the German Thanksgiving, is a rural harvest festival typically celebrated in late September or early October. Those who celebrate Erntedankfest attend church services, massive parades, and feasts to thank God for an abundant harvest. This event has a carnival-like atmosphere, with party tents, pubs, and beer stalls throughout Urdenbach.
Sukkot – Israel
Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is a Jewish holiday that occurs in the fall. Families build sukkahs, or temporary huts, and eat meals in them to commemorate the temporary dwellings used during the Exodus from Egypt. Sukkot is also a time when you’ll see several street parties, parades, and music festivals – it’s a great time to visit Israel.
Thanksgiving – United States
We couldn’t write an article on harvest celebrations without also explaining American Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Its origins can be traced back to the early 17th century when the Pilgrims, early English settlers, and Native Americans came together for a three-day feast to celebrate the successful harvest.
This holiday symbolizes gratitude and unity, and it's marked by a traditional feast that includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Parades, like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, are an iconic part of the celebration. Families gather to express thanks, share a meal, and reflect on their blessings.
In a world filled with diverse cultures and traditions, the common thread of gratitude and thanksgiving can be found in the hearts of people everywhere. From Korea's Chuseok, where families honour their ancestors and harvests, to the joyous celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, giving thanks is a universal sentiment that unites us all.