Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated holidays in the United States. Each year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving by eating many festive dishes like turkey, mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving desserts, watching football, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In addition to the United States, there’s a lot of countries that celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways. The traditions may be different, but the core reason for these holidays is the same: It’s a great opportunity to spend with family and friends and reflects what’s most significant in life.
So, what country other than the United States also celebrates Thanksgiving? Let’s discover Thanksgiving celebrations around the world that might surprise you.
Canadians actually commemorated their version of Thanksgiving before the U.S Thanksgiving was established. The first Thanksgiving in Canada was reported to be celebrated in 1578 — 40 years before the first American Thanksgiving.
The English explorer Martin Frobisher hosted the celebration in Newfoundland, where he and his team gave thanks for a successful voyage to North America.
Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October year and is honored similarly to the American holiday. Most Canadians gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving and enjoy festive dishes including turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and corn. Pumpkin pie is also the most popular dessert.
There’s also an annual doubleheader called the Thanksgiving Day Classic, which is a common Thanksgiving Day activity.
Thanksgiving in Germany is called Erntedank or Erntedankfest, which is an autumn harvest celebration. The observance usually falls in September or October, depending on the region. Since 1972, the German Catholic Church suggests celebrating the first Sunday in October. This is not strictly observed, however.
It is mostly celebrated by rural, religious groups with church services, a parade, music, and a country fair atmosphere to honor their harvest.
In larger cities, Erntedankfest is sponsored by Protestant and Catholic churches. A typical German church observance starts with a sermon and maybe some choral singing. Then followed by the Thanksgiving parade and the presenting of the traditional “harvest crown” (Erntekrone) for the harvest queen (Erntekönigin).
Throughout the day, there’s music, dancing, and food. Churchgoers give leftover or surplus food to the poor. In some places, there is also an evening service followed by a lantern and torch parade (Laternenumzüge) for the kids — and even fireworks!
Not only Germany but most German-speaking countries also join the festivities, such as Austria and Switzerland.
China celebrates the “Chung Chiu” Moon Festival, or the autumn harvest on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month yearly. At that time, the moon is believed to be at its fullest and brightest. In Chinese culture, the full moon represents reunion, so that they reunite with their families for celebrations.
On this occasion, family and friends enjoy reunion dinner, worship the moon together, share mooncakes, and light paper lanterns.
Mooncakes are round pastries that typically include duck egg yolks, lotus seed paste, and sesame seeds. The yolk symbolizes the full moon.
A similar harvest festival is observed on the same day in Vietnam, known as Tết Trung Thu or Trung Thu. On this day, Vietnamese families come together and enjoy mooncakes.
Thanksgiving in Japanese is called ‘Kinro Kansha no Hi’, which means Labor Thanksgiving Day, takes place on Nov. 23 every year. Unlike Americans, not all Japanese are guaranteed to have a day off work for Thanksgiving. But all Japanese government entities are closed on this occasion to celebrate labor, production, and giving one another thanks.
It is reported that this holiday has roots in an ancient rice harvest festival named Niinamesai. While the day started as a way to mark the harvest, it finally transformed into a holiday to honor the workers who helped the harvest happen. Both the Americans and the Japanese mark the day to concentrate on what they’re thankful for, but Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day is particularly about being grateful for the hard work of dedicated workers.
On this day, the celebration focuses more on thanking those who work hard to make the nation run smoothly rather than around food. School kids will sometimes write notes to say thanks to firefighters, police officers, and other community workers who help keep them safe.
It may come as a surprise that the tiny remote island located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean commemorates Thanksgiving. Norfolk Island observes Thanksgiving Day on the last Wednesday in November yearly. This island was a popular place for whaling ships coming from the United States. When an American trader named Isaac Robinson lived in Norfolk, he carried with him the Thanksgiving tradition.
In the 1890s, Robinson came up with the idea to decorate one of the island’s churches with Thanksgiving-style. All Saints Church in the capital of Kingston was decorated by Robinson and three of his friends. It was shaped from palm trees and lemons. It is reported that Robin died the following year, but the tradition was associated with the community.
Norfolk Island celebrations include visiting Church services where local produce is auctioned off at the end of the ceremony and followed by a traditional lunch with your loved ones.
Thanksgiving in South Korea is known as Chuseok, or Hangawi takes place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It’s commemorated on the same day as the Chinese and Vietnamese harvest festivals.
Chuseok celebrates the first day that the full harvest moon appears. On this occasion, family gather and spend quality time together. A rice cake known as songpyeon is one of the most vital foods on this day. Songpyeon is made using finely ground, new rice, and filled with sesame seeds, chestnuts, red beans, or other similar ingredients. It’s then kneaded into a small ball.
Families gather on the night before Chuseok to make songpyeon as a bonding activity that illustrates the importance of family in Korean society.
Another Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday tradition in modern-day Korea is that of gift-giving. Koreans will give presents not only to their relatives but also to friends and businesses to show their thankfulness and appreciation. Typical gifts range from high-quality cuts of beef and fresh fruit such as apples, to gift baskets packed with necessities for the year. In Korea, spam is truly one of the most common gifts to give your dearest ones.
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Wherever you are in the world, you probably have something to be thankful for. So, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. If you’re curious about some fun Thanksgiving facts or great Thanksgiving foods, you can find them in our Thanksgiving Guide.