Thanksgiving worldwide is a holiday that promotes gratitude and thankfulness, a time of year when we are encouraged to recognize the positive aspects of our lives that we often take for granted. Although in recent times, the holiday has come under some controversy due to its oppressive origins in America, the key message of being grateful for the blessings that we have is more relevant than ever. 

Thanksgiving is a harvest-related festival, which is celebrated predominantly in North America. However, many countries around the world have festivals which have some similarities to this traditional Thanksgiving, especially when it comes to being thankful for the harvest of the year. Whilst the origins and traditions of Thanksgiving worldwide vary widely, the key message of gratitude and appreciating our loved ones remains central to the festivities.

USA

Family sitting together on Thanksgiving
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The American version of Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November and can be traced back to 1621 when colonizers and native peoples were said to have held a feast together to celebrate the year’s harvest and the hard work that went into gathering it. It is now celebrated across the country and is seen as the day that the holiday season truly kicks off. However, it was not actually an official holiday until 1941. 

We associate many traditions and customs with Thanksgiving in the States, including roast turkey, pumpkin pie, watching the football and of course, spending time with our family and friends.

Aaaand eating yummy sweets! We found the 10 most delicious desserts for Thanksgiving worldwide.

Liberia

Celebrated on the first Thursday of November, Thanksgiving is a national holiday in Liberia; with families getting together to celebrate the harvests as well as give thanks to God.

There are some elements of the traditional US holiday, but there are also many differences. For example, in Liberia people traditionally eat mashed cassavas instead of potatoes, and the roast bird is much spicier than the American fare.

Canada

Homemade pie with a maple leaf
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Similarly, the Canadian Thanksgiving also originated with the idea of gratitude, although there is some confusion regarding the actual history of the holiday in the country.  It is thought that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1578 when the British explorer Martin Frobisher shared a communal feast with the native people.

However, other stories have also been proposed and indigenous people in Canada have been holding feasts and celebrating the harvest for centuries. Canada celebrates the end of harvest earlier and their version is held on the second Monday of October.

Japan

In Japan, Kinro Kansha No Hi, or Labour Thanksgiving Day has some similarities to American Thanksgiving. It originated from the festival, Niinamesai, which celebrated major food staples in the region, including the five cereals – rice, barley wheat, foxtail millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, and beans, as well as gratitude for the hard work of the rice farmers.

Held on the 23rd of November each year, this is a national holiday that commemorates labor and gives thanks for the hard work of the citizens of the country. For example, prior to the holiday, school children often prepare cards and gifts for public service workers such as police officers, firefighters and teachers to give thanks for their contributions.

Germany

Woman throwing leaves in the air in the forest

This German type of Thanksgiving worldwide is celebrated mainly in the rural areas of the country: The Harvest Festival in Germany is Christian and takes place on the first Sunday of October. Known as Erntedankfest, families, and friends get together for an indulgent feast, as well as music and dancing. The evening finishes with a parade of lanterns and fireworks lighting up the night sky.

Still looking for the perfect Thanksgiving decoration design to brighten up the holidays? No stress… these Thanksgiving decoration ideas are perfect for you.

Ghana

Homowo is an African harvest festival in May that celebrates the end of the rainy season and the hopes of a bountiful harvest. Homowo translates as ‘hooted at hunger’ and the holiday also recognizes a period of famine which occurred in precolonial times. It is a festival that is mainly celebrated in the coastal region of Accra by the Ga People.

China

Traditional mooncakes on a plate for Mid Autumn Festival
Photo source: Shutterstock.com / Boontoom Sae-Kor

The Harvest Moon Festival in China can be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty. It is a three-day celebration that is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month when it is said that the moon is at its fullest and brightest. In honor of the moon, a traditional food eaten around the time is the mooncake; this is a mouth-watering flaky pastry that can be prepared either savory or sweet and it is said to symbolize unity and peace. To honor the day, families get together to sing poems, feast and celebrate concepts such as romance and kinship.

Vietnam

Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar cycle, the Têt-Trung-Thu Festival in Vietnam is also a holiday that celebrates the end of harvest. Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, people eat mooncakes, have lantern parades and spend time with family and friends. It is the most important national holiday after the Vietnamese New Year, and it is very much considered a holiday to celebrate children.

Legend says that the festival originated as a way for parents to show appreciation for their children after they’ve been so busy in the previous months. Children, images of purity and innocence in Vietnam, are considered to play an important role in connecting the sacred and natural world.

Can’t get enough of Thanksgiving? Maybe it’s time to share how grateful you feel for your friends or family WITH your family and friends? And here’s exactly how you can go about expressing it!

Author

Hiya, I’m Maud. I’m an English girl who's moved to Berlin - because who wouldn’t fall in love with a country which has words like ‘Kummerspeck’ hidden around every corner... I love traveling and finding out the quirks of each country - and what better way to remember them then on a postcard?

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