Thanksgiving around the world


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We’re all more than familiar with the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Stuffing ourselves with turkey, quarreling over the wishbone and enjoying the company of family brings joy to each and every heart and stomach.

Most of us might have an abundance of free time this Thanksgiving week. I say this is the perfect time to read about other Thanksgiving traditions around the world.

Yes, you heard that right. There are other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving, each with its own variation, whether minor or major. Here are six countries/territories that give thanks with a celebration feast.

  1. Canada (Canadian Thanksgiving)

Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving, often known as “Canadian Thanksgiving,” on the second Monday in October. It bears a striking resemblance to ours, with turkey dinners and family reunions. However, while we celebrate the story of the Feast at Plymouth in 1621, they celebrate to honor an English explorer by the name of Sir Martin Frobisher. The first Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated by Sir Frobisher and his crew in 1578, over 40 years before our beloved pilgrims had their feast. In order to give thanks to God for their safe journey to modern day Canada, they feasted upon salted beef, biscuits and peas. Eventually, this feast was recreated by Protestant clergymen in 1777, and established as a national holiday in 1789.

  1. Germany (Erntedankfist)

Erntedankfest, which translates to “Harvest Festival of Thanks,” is a religious holiday celebrated in both Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany. This holiday is observed on the first Sunday after a holiday called Michaelstag, one of the 4 dividing days of the church calendar which separate the seasons. On this day, they decorate the altar with wheat, the fruits of the harvest and loaves of bread. In many communities, a Harvest Queen is chosen to be presented at a harvest parade. She wears a crown of wheat upon her head. The meals include freshly harvested produce, wheat, honeycomb, and bread. In the evening, after a mass service, there is the Laterneumzuge, the Lantern Parades. 

  1. Liberia (National Thanksgiving Day)

In Liberia, National Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the first Thursday of November. Freed black slaves from the US who colonized Liberia brought the holiday into their new homes in the 1880s. During this holiday, they attend worship services, hold fresh produce auctions and then gather together for a family meal. Rather than focusing on turkey, this holiday is a time to focus on all of God’s blessings, especially for a free country to live in.

  1. Japan (Labor Thanksgiving Day)

Labor Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on November 23, is a day to commemorate workers and careers of all kinds, giving them thanks for their hard work and daily service. Japan has observed this holiday officially since 1948, yet it is more silently celebrated than in America. There might be small parties or family gatherings here and there, but there is no specific food or decoration to commemorate the holiday.

  1. Norfolk Island (Thanksgiving)

Norfolk Island isn’t a country, it’s actually a minuscule Australian island in the South Pacific Ocean. Their thanksgiving tradition is somewhat inspired by the American tradition. A resident of the island and an American consul, Isaac Robinson, observed the holiday one year by decorating the pews of the All Saints Church with palm leaves and lemons. When he tragically died at sea, the inhabitants of Norfolk Island continued his practice. Today, church services are held, and the church is decorated with stalks of corn and other fresh fruits and vegetables along the aisles. Bananas are vastly incorporated into many dishes in this holiday, and turkey is not typically served.

  1. Puerto Rico (Thanksgiving)

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island and unincorporated United States territory. They adopted Thanksgiving after Puerto Rico officially became a U.S. territory in the late 1880s. Many families dedicate this holiday to decorating for Christmas, making Thanksgiving an unofficial kick-off of the Christmas season. (Yes, this means it’s ok to listen to Christmas music before December, just so all the haters know.) Anyways, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is usually stuffing, Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and amarillos (fried sweet plantains with sugar).

While you’re celebrating your version of the American Thanksgiving, remember that there are other countries who share the tradition of giving thanks alongside family and friends as well.