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Thanksgiving around the world

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Thanksgiving Day has been an annual holiday in the United States since 1863. Not everyone sees Thanksgiving Day as a cause for celebration. Thanksgiving Day is traditionally a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal. The meal often includes a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables. Thanksgiving Day is a time for many people to give thanks for what they have.

Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln Abraham proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on fourth Thursday of November.  As a Federal and popular holiday in the US, Thanksgiving is one of the major holidays of the year. The "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, and was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans, The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings" — days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought, though the 1621 events were likely not a religious observation.


By Stacey Schifferdecker

 

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, but the idea of an annual celebration to thank God for his bounty stretches back through time and around the world. Here are some ways other cultures celebrate Thanksgiving. Maybe you can find some ideas to enrich your own family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Chinese, and Egyptians all held harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations. These celebrations continue today in various forms. Jewish families celebrate with a seven-day autumn harvest festival called Sukkoth. Sukkoth commemorates how God cared for Moses and the Hebrew people as they wandered in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. During Sukkoth, families build small temporary huts out of branches and foliage. Inside the huts, they hang fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, corn, and pomegranates. A special ceremony is held each day to remember their Hebrew ancestors and to thank God for the harvest. Families eat in the hut at night and sometimes sleep there as well.

The Chinese harvest festival is called Chung Ch'ui or the August Moon Festival and is celebrated in mid-August. During this three-day celebration, Chinese families celebrate the end of the harvest season with a big feast featuring roasted pig and moon cakes. These palm-sized round cakes symbolize family unity and perfection, so the Chinese people also give moon cakes to their friends and relatives as a way of giving thanks. Legend says that during wartime, the Chinese hid secret messages in moon cakes and were able to thwart their enemies

Vietnamese families also celebrate an autumn festival in mid-August. Their festival is called Têt-Trung-Thu (tet-troong-thoo) or the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is also called the Children’s Festival and many activities are planned for children. According to Vietnamese folklore, parents worked so hard on the harvest, they left the children playing by themselves. To make up for it, parents would show their love and appreciation for their children at the Mid-Autumn festival. One popular activity is a candlelit lantern procession at dawn, often with lanterns the children make themselves. The lanterns represent brightness while the procession itself symbolizes success in school.

Ghana, Nigeria, and Korea also celebrate the harvest in August. Ghana and Nigeria have a Yam Festival because yams are the most common food in many African countries and is the first crop to be harvested. The Korean festival is called Chusok. Families get together and eat special rice cakes made of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. They also visit the tombs of their ancestors and dance traditional dances.

Southern India celebrates the harvest at a festival called Pongal in January of each year. Named after a sweet rice dish, Pongal features a community feast during which neighbors get together to share their crops and give thanks to everyone, who contributed to a successful harvest.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada dates back to 1578, when explorer Martin Frobisher held a ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks to God. This celebration is the most similar to the American Thanksgiving, even featuring many of the same foods and hymns. The similarities stem from the American Revolution, when many Americans, who remained loyal to England, moved to Canada, bringing their American customs with them. However, the harvest season is earlier in Canada, so they celebrate Thanksgiving in October instead of November. Canadians also celebrate on Monday rather than Thursday.

Other harvest festivals around the world include the German Erntedank-fest celebrated in September each year and a Brazilian public day of thanksgiving and prayer celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.