Thanksgiving means different things to different people. And we mean that on a global level.
There are a dozen or so other countries outside the United States that celebrate something either called or akin to Thanksgiving, although in those areas the day doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with dry turkey, Pilgrims or arguing with Uncle Bob about vaccines (or the holiday’s problematic elements, which we’ll set aside for now.)
That said, some places — like Grenada and Brazil — certainly do tie into the traditions we practice here, which we should point out are certainly not uniform within the United States. Food and celebrations can vary by region, cultural norms and dietary preferences, and some strange people even find a day filled with argumentative relatives, whiny children and heavy food to be sexy.
So there’s certainly room for people here to appreciate how other places celebrate a like-minded (or like-named) holiday. And maybe we can use this knowledge to create some new Thanksgiving traditions. Or, at least, discover a better menu option than green bean casserole.
Below, five interesting Thanksgiving traditions outside the U.S.
Held in October, this celebration of the harvest skews pretty close to what you’d expect here, but seems to be a bit less intense — you can hold it really any day of the weekend — and often features hikes and long strolls through the countryside, according to Bustle.
This western African nation, founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves (although there was an Indigenous population on the land, making it a complicated holiday for some), celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November. As the New York Times notes, the food on this holiday is “rich and multi-faceted, reflecting the various groups that have called the country home.” Which means West African staples like rice and yams can mix with foods from the American South (collard greens, cornbread), but also European exports like dried fish and cassava, or even ginger beer from Barbados.
Erntedankfest (“harvest thanksgiving festival”), held in early October in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, features church services, a lantern/torch parade, music, dancing and “a country fair atmosphere,” along with a crowned Harvest Queen.
Known as Chuseok Day, this mid-September holiday is also historically harvest-related and involves family gatherings. However, the food options include rice cakes called songpyeon and one big element of the holiday is gift giving, not only to family but “friends and business acquaintances to show their thanks and appreciation.”
Kinrō Kansha no Hi, or Labor Thanksgiving Day, is harvest-based like many Thanksgivings but dates back over 2,000 years (though not officially recognized until 1948). This one is more like Labor Day, as the day celebrates workers’ rights and other worthy causes. As Yahoo News notes, the city of Nagano hosts an annual labor festival and “draws attention to matters relating to human rights and the environment.”
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