6 Other Countries That Also Celebrate Thanksgiving
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Thanksgiving commemorates a 1621 feast that brought together the native Wampanoag people and newly arrived Pilgrims, who gathered to give thanks for a successful autumn harvest. Today, nearly 400 years later, U.S. residents associate the national holiday with turkey and a table full of carbs and hours’ worth of televised football. Yet we’re not the only ones in the world who show gratitude as fall gives way to winter; below, six other countries that also celebrate Thanksgiving.
Some First Nations, or native Canadian tribespeople, commemorated the annual harvest long before European settlers arrived; additionally, some historians credit the first Thanksgiving in North America celebrated by Europeans to the English seafarer Sir Martin Frobisher, who arrived with his crew in northeastern Canada in 1578. Canadian Thanksgiving (or l’Action de grâce) was informally acknowledged for a couple hundred years throughout October or November, but it didn’t become an official national holiday until 1879. It is now observed on the second Monday of October and, with turkey, stuffing, gravy and pie, it feels uncannily similar to its American counterpart.
Liberia was founded in the early 19th century by freed U.S. slaves, who brought along numerous American customs and holidays, including Thanksgiving. The national holiday is celebrated on the first Thursday of November. Liberians give thanks to the founding of their country and fruits of the harvest with church services, special concerts, dancing and at-home feasts. Meals have been modified to incorporate local ingredients like chicken, cassavas and spice.
3. Norfolk Island
The seasons may be inverted on Australia’s Norfolk Island, but the small territory still celebrates American Thanksgiving at the end of November — on the last Wednesday rather than fourth Thursday. The tradition was introduced to the island in the 1960s by American whalers, who brought classic recipes like pumpkin pie and cornbread, which merged well the island’s preexisting British Harvest festival.
4. The Netherlands
Many of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 actually lived and worked in Leiden, Holland, before crossing the pond. In the Dutch city, the attachment is still strong; every year on Thanksgiving morning, locals still assemble in a 900-year-old Gothic church, Pieterskerk, to honor the determination of those early American settlers.
China (and many other East Asian countries) have been celebrating the mid-autumn festival for at least 2,500 years. “The moon festival,” as it’s also known, takes place during the harvest on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar (the date shifts every year within September and October), when the moon is brightest and the agricultural season starts to shift. The holiday is observed by dining with family, eating mooncakes (whose enclosed egg yolks symbolize the moon), lighting lanterns and worshipping the moon.
European farmers have been hosting harvest gatherings since the Pagan days. Adopted by Christians, Erntedankfest (“harvest festival”) has become a religious holiday replete with church services in the morning and a parade, music, dancing and food later on. The celebration is usually held on the first Sunday of October; however, specific dates and festivals vary by region. Parts of Austria and Switzerland observe the tradition, as well.
Featured image of Tiantouzhai, Guangxi, China by Vincent Boisvert / Getty Images.
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