Thanksgiving and its Multicultural Traditions Around the World

Contributors: Rachel Schlachter and Sabrina Castanuela

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate food, family and all the things we have to be grateful for in life. Let’s take a peek into how different cultures celebrate Thanksgiving around the world.

Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce in Canada

Also known as “Canadian Thanksgiving,” Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce is celebrated on the second Monday in October. On this day, Canadians give thanks to God for a bountiful harvest typically with a menu very similar to the American one, as turkey, stuffing, corn and sweet potatoes are prepared for a traditional feast with family and friends.

Chuseok in South Korea

To celebrate Chuseok, a South Korean harvest festival held in September, family members come together to share food and give thanks to their ancestors, holding a memorial service in the morning to honor them. After the memorial service and clearing of weeds from the ancestor’s graves, a feast is served, featuring traditional dishes, such as song pyun (a steamed rice cake) and jeon (a Korean pancake filled with seafood and vegetables), among other things. Time-honored games are also played.

Tết Trung Thu Festival in Vietnam   

Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Children’s Festival, Tết Trung Thu is celebrated in the eighth lunar month, or October. Centering around children, the worship of ancestors and the moon (the full moon is a symbol of fullness and prosperity of life), this holiday sees lion dancing, singing of traditional songs, and children parading down the streets with colorful lanterns. Moon cakes abound, as do other round foods, such as banh bao (steamed buns) and bánh xèo (Vietnamese crepes).

Thanksgiving in the United States

On the fourth Thursday in November every year, the U.S.A. celebrates Thanksgiving. While the roots of the very first celebration are controversial, in modern times, people in the U.S. tend to spend this holiday with multiple generations of family, enjoying a variety of home-cooked foods — from turkey and stuffing to greens and cranberry sauce to chitterlings, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. And for those who may not be able to make it home for the holiday? Friendsgiving has become popular in recent years. Other activities on this day of thanks include watching college football and than annual Thanksgiving Day Parade put on by department store Macy’s .

Erntedankfest in Germany

Translating to “‘harvest thanksgiving festival,” Erntedank or Erntedankfest is a religious holiday that takes place on a Sunday in September or October in Germany, particularly in the rural areas. Traditions often observed include church services, parades, music and a county fair. Erntedankfest isn’t a widely celebrated holiday, however, and doesn’t include a large family feast, as found in other countries.

Asogli Te Za in Ghana

Like other celebrations listed here, the Asogli Te Za (Asagoli Yam Festival) is another that commemorates the harvest, as well as family and culture. Held every September, the people of the Volta Region in Ghana give praise and thanksgiving to the gods and the ancestors. As is customary during this festival — and the entire month of September — there is also a ban on funerals. Instead, those who have passed on are remembered, and according to visitghana.com, cooked yams are sprinkled outside of various shrines before celebrants are allowed to cook and taste their own yam harvest.

Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan

After WWII, Japan expanded upon the harvest festival they’d been celebrating since ancient times. Now known as Labor Thanksgiving Day or きんろうかんしゃのひ (pronounced keen ro kan sha no hee), this November holiday also recognizes the hard work of the nation’s people, as well as what that hard work produces. In Nagano, a large festival complete with fireworks and food is held to mark the day and celebrate peace, human rights, and the environment. It’s also a holiday centered around spending time with family and friends.

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  1. I think it is very important to learn about holidays that are experienced around the world because it not only highlights the differences in culture, but it celebrates it I think we don’t do enough teaching on different holidays here in the USA. I did not know that “Canadian Thanksgiving” was called something different, which goes to show how little other holidays are given the light of day. There are a lot of Fall Thanksgiving-like celebrations around the world I was not aware of, so thank you for writing about them!

  2. It’s so cool to learn about how other countries besides the United States celebrate holidays and the history behind them. I also really liked the video you included as it gives me a chance to hear how South Koreans pronounce their “Thanksgiving” and what it is all about for them.

  3. As an Australian I have never celebrated thanksgiving so found this article very interesting to read ! I think it is so important to read and know about other cultures holidays not just your own as it higlights the beautiful differences between our cultures, and different ways in which we can celebrate with our loved ones!

  4. I loved reading about all of the different harvest-based holidays around the world! As a bicultural kid living in the United States, Thanksgiving never really resonated with me as much as it did with other US residents. Hearing about how other cultures give thanks and celebrate the season helps me to see that there are a lot of ways to celebrate this time of year.

  5. This is really cool because when people think of thanksgiving they think of North America and the United States. Learning about other countries and what they do is a great way to get an idea of what people around the world do.

  6. I really enjoyed this article and seeing what Thanksgiving is like in other countries. I know a lot of cultures around the world don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so it was interesting to learn about how other people celebrate this holiday.

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