Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World

While you may be familiar only with the Thanksgiving traditions we follow here, did you know that countries around the world have similar traditions of giving thanks? Let’s take a look at some of the countries that celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgivings Around the World

Let’s start with our own Thanksgiving traditions before we look at the global celebrations. The earliest Thanksgiving in the U.S. is traced back to 1620 when the Pilgrims entered the country. It is said that they had a tough time adapting to the new land and were helped generously by the Native Americans.

They eventually flourished with the help of the natives and prepared an elaborate feast to show their gratitude; this was the first American Thanksgiving meal.

The holiday was celebrated on different dates for a few centuries and it was during the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln decided to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, to be observed in November. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with friends and family, enjoying a wonderful meal and being grateful for everything we have in our lives.

Thanksgiving around the world:

  1. Canada: Action de Grâce, as it is known in the French-speaking provinces of Canada, Thanksgiving is observed on the second Monday of October to thank God for an abundant harvest. The origin of Canadian Thanksgiving can be traced to 1578 when an English sailor celebrated the safe return of his crew by holding a grand feast. Today, it is celebrated on similar tones as our version.
  2. Grenada: Celebrated on October 25, Grenada’s Thanksgiving gives thanks to the U.S. military for helping the nation recover from the turmoil after the passing of one of its communist leaders. It was marked by a lavish feast organized in honor of the troops and today the people of Grenada celebrate it as a day of remembrance.
  3. Liberia: Founded by the slaves who were freed from the U.S., Liberia is a nation in West Africa and their Thanksgiving is based on the American tradition but has religious overtones. Liberians display cornucopia filled with seasonal produce in their churches and culminate the day with a feast and lots of singing and dancing.
  4. The Netherlands: Many of the original Pilgrims are said to have made a stop at Leiden, a small Dutch town where they stayed for nearly a decade before leaving for the U.S. The town still remembers the refugees who fled from the U.K. by offering a “Non-denominational service,” followed by coffee and cookies.
  5. Brazil: Joaquim Nabuco, an ambassador who visited the U.S. in 1905, established Dia de Ação de Graças that blended aspects of the American version with the religious harvest celebration of Brazil. Though it is not a national holiday, many Brazilians gather for a traditional feast that resembles the American Thanksgiving meal.
  6. Vietnam: What started as a way to express love and appreciation for their children, the harvest festival of Têt-Trung-Thu was established by Vietnamese farmers who felt guilty about leaving their children alone while working long hours on the fields.
  7. Germany, Austria and Switzerland: A more religious version of the harvest festival, called Erntedankfest, is celebrated in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to commemorate the year’s bountiful harvest. The celebrations are usually interspersed with processions, dancing, music and food.
  8. Japan: Though Kinrō Kansha no Hi, celebrated on November 23, was derived from an ancient harvest festival, today it symbolizes hard work. Established in 1948, the day was meant to celebrate workers’ rights.
  9. United Kingdom: In ancient times, it is said that Saxon farmers prayed to fertility gods by offering them the first harvest of corn and an animal to request for a good harvest the next year too. To this day, the English celebrate their Thanksgiving by making a supper highlighting seasonal produce.
  10. India: The festival of Makar Sankranthi is celebrated in almost all parts of India and is considered a harvest festival. Spread out over three days, the first day is for giving thanks to the Earth, the second is for thanking the people who helped with the harvest and the third is for thanking the livestock, who are an integral part of agriculture.

While the manner of celebrations behind each of these festivals may vary, they all share the common core of giving gratitude for everything we have. So, whether you celebrate it the American way, the German or the Vietnamese way, gather around with your family to say thanks and enjoy the gifts that life has given you this year.

Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World


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