While Thanksgiving has been a staple of American holiday culture, this tradition of gratitude is celebrated among various cultures across the world. Large delicacy meals, festive dances, and communal gatherings range in dates, types of food, customs, and history. However, each celebration is a moment to commemorate abundance and show gratitude for gifts and bounty. As we approach another season of thanks, let’s take a global look at how communities around the world express their gratitude:
It may surprise many to hear that Canada’s Thanksgiving celebration predates that of the United States by about 40 years. In 1578 an expedition led by English navigators held a ceremony commemorating the arrival of their fleet and safety of their families from persecution. This is considered to be the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America, although indigenous communities previously held celebrations and harvest festivals before the arrival of European colonizers. Thanksgiving in Canada is similar to the United States, emphasizing large meals and Canadian football.
In places like Germany the equivalent of Thanksgiving is tied to religious traditions. Erntedankfest or “harvest festival of thanks” is celebrated the first Sunday in October. People carry a harvest crown called “Erntekrone” usually made up of grains, fruits, and other bounties in a procession to their local congregation. Germans feast on special dishes such as fatted chickens and geese.
The West African republic of Liberia celebrates their version of Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November. Freed slaves from the United States established Liberia in 1820 as a black republic, therefore many traditions from American history migrated to this new nation. Today the celebrations are headed by Churches who auction off food baskets after their services and families gather to eat mashed cassavas and spicy roast chicken as they enjoy some live music and dancing.
Japan’s modern Thanksgiving celebration centers the labor rights of Japanese workers across service industries. Instead of a large celebration this holiday is commemorated by programming through labor rights organizations and kids writing cards to firefighters, policemen, and other workers in the industry. This tradition was established after World War II when the national discourse emphasized discipline and a tough work ethic. However, Japan also has a long history of showing gratitude through ancient rice harvest festivals, which date back as far as the seventh century.
Grenada’s celebration of gratitude commemorates the anniversary of a joint U.S. and Caribbean military invasion that ended the dictatorship of socialist leader Maurice Bishop. To show gratitude to the US soldiers local Grenadians prepared the traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkeys and potatoes, rare finds on the West Indian island. The tradition became a part of Grenada’s rituals in the most metropolitan areas and today it continues, marked as a day of remembrance on October 25th.