Celebrating Thanksgiving Around the World

November 22, 2023

When you think about Thanksgiving, our traditional American holiday probably comes to mind first. Our American Thanksgiving marks when our forefathers first colonized America and celebrated a three-day feast with the Native Americans. Through the years, Americans have added their own twists where we usually celebrate with families and friends.

At Primary Beginnings, an accredited 5-star preschool in Raleigh, we not only like to teach our preschoolers about the American Thanksgiving we all know, but also what Thanksgiving traditions around the world look like. Do other countries even celebrate Thanksgiving seemingly as it is a seemingly American holiday?

Cuisine from Thanksgiving traditions around the world

Join our Raleigh teachers in this post as they shed light on what Thanksgiving traditions around the world resemble. You can pass these lessons along to your children as well this holiday to give them a greater understanding of those around them.

What Are Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World?

While other countries may not adorn the table with the same turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole that Americans have grown accustomed to, the diverse Thanksgiving traditions around the world are fascinating. Each one is rich in its traditions and is dear to the people of that culture.

Just as Christmas traditions around the world are diverse in customs, decor, and traditions, Thanksgiving is as well. Here’s a closer look at Thanksgiving traditions around the world:

Thanksgiving in Canada

The first Canadian Thanksgiving was reportedly first celebrated in 1579, which was before the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in the U.S. in 1621. A feast was organized by English explorer Martin Frobisher to give thanks for a successful voyage to North America. Currently, Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated in October. The foods on the Thanksgiving table are similar to what we see here in America with turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes. Don’t forget the pumpkin pie!

Thanksgiving in Liberia

Liberia celebrates a day of Thanksgiving on the first Thursday in November. The meal consists of a bird with plenty of spices as well as mashed cassava instead of mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving in China

Chinese Thanksgiving is a 3-day feast called Chung Chiu Moon Festival. It occurs on the 15th day of the eight lunar cycles of the year, which is mid-August. Featured food includes mooncake, a round pastry that typically contains duck egg yolks, lotus seed paste, and sesame seeds. The yolk represents the full moon and the cakes usually have the baker’s logo embossed on top. Family and friends share mooncakes with one another to signify unity and peace to come.

Thanksgiving in Ghana

Ghana celebrates the Homowo Festival which is the harvest of the yams. This takes place between May and August which is the harvest time for yams. A big feast is prepared and there is plenty of dancing, singing, and music.

Thanksgiving in Rome

Rome celebrates a harvest festival known as Cerelia. This honors the Goddess of Corn and Ceres. It is celebrated annually on October 4th. Roman custom is to present produced fruits, grains, and animals to the goddess in appreciation. Parades and music are also part of the celebration.

Thanksgiving in Brazil

Thanksgiving celebrations in Brazil mimic the United States, even down to the same date, the fourth Thursday in November. It is called Dia de Acao de Gracias. The Brazilian ambassador to the U.S. saw Americans enjoying a day of eating delicious food and giving thanks and decided that Brazilians should do the same. Brazil began to mark the day in the 1940s, and it’s been an unofficial holiday ever since. Besides the yummy food, there is a parade and a church service to give thanks.

Thanksgiving in Grenada

Grenada’s Thanksgiving celebration is rather new as it didn’t start until 1983. When the U.S. military restored order in the country after their communist leader died in 1983, locals surprised U.S. soldiers with a Thanksgiving meal. This kind gesture grew into a holiday that the people of Grenada still celebrate today.

Thanksgiving in Japan

Every November 23rd, Japan celebrates Kinro Kansha no Hi, or “Labor Thanksgiving Day”. Similar to Labor Day, this is a public holiday to honor workers in the community. While there are no big meals or parades to celebrate, there is the Nagano Labour Festival. Local organizations sponsor the Nagano Labour Festival to bring awareness to environmental and human rights issues. Elementary-age children also make crafts for labor workers as a sign of gratitude.

Thanksgiving in Germany

Germany’s Thanksgiving holiday occurs in early October and is called Erntedankfest. Translated, this means “harvest thanksgiving festival”. This is mainly celebrated to honor the harvest. Besides Germany, Austria and Switzerland also celebrate Erntedankfest. There are also church services to begin the celebration with lantern parades planned for the evening.

Thanksgiving in Korea

As we look at Thanksgiving traditions around the world, Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday is known as Chuseok and also Hangawi. It is celebrated on the same day as the Chinese and Vietnamese harvest festivals that are celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month. During this festival, songpyeon is served. This is a rice cake whose dough is made using finely ground, new rice, and filled with sesame seeds, chestnuts, red beans, and other ingredients that are made into a small ball. Families gather the night before to make this special dish as a bonding activity.

Thanksgiving in South India

The Tamil people in South India hold a four-day festival, Pongal, to thank the sun god, nature, and everyone and every animal who supports agriculture. This is usually held in January or during the Tamil month of Thai. A traditional Pongal dish is made with milk, ghee, and rice. The Tamil culture regards it as a symbol of prosperity that is connected to abundance and wealth.

Thanksgiving in Barbados

The people of Barbados celebrate Thanksgiving with a Crop Over festival, at the end of the sugarcane harvest festival. This is typically at the end of July through early August. This is a 300-year-old tradition that goes back to those who worked on sugarcane plantations and celebrated the harvest season. The celebrations include dancing, eating, and games.

Thanksgiving in Malaysia

In Malaysia, there is a Kaamatan harvest festival in May with a two-day public holiday. The festival is in tribute to the goddess Huminodun, who was sacrificed to save people from famine. Rice is the main ingredient in dishes served during this festival, along with rice wines. The festival ends with a Humabot ceremony complete with games, songs, and dance.

By learning about other cultures like these as part of your Thanksgiving tradition, you can teach your preschooler about Thanksgiving traditions around the world. Introducing them to different cultures at a young age will help to foster a greater understanding of the differences around them.

Learn More about Primary Beginnings

Primary Beginnings is an accredited 5-star child care center that offers the Creative Curriculum to foster creativity in each child. To learn more about the important instruction the team at Primary Beginning offers, call us today at [phone] or fill out the form below to schedule a tour at one of our three North Raleigh locations. Learn about our approach to child care and after-school programs as you meet our teachers and tour the classrooms.

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