Thanksgiving Celebrations Around the World

Thanksgiving Celebrations Around the World

Abby Nam, Writer

When you think “Thanksgiving,” you may envision you and your family crowded around a dining room table clustered with platters of roasted turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Maybe you imagine watching football with your uncles on the couch. Maybe you begin to reminisce about your elementary school days when you learned about the Pilgrims for the first time and drew misshapen hand turkeys in crayons with your friends. 

For the most part, we imagine Thanksgiving and its traditions as distinctly American. However, did you know that the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America took place in Canada and not the United States? Additionally, around the world countries commemorate giving thanks in different ways. 

Across the Pacific, Japan’s Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro Kansha no Hi) began as a way to celebrate the rice harvest in ancient times, but later became a celebration of giving thanks to the devoted workers who made the harvest possible. Young students write thank you notes to the firefighters, police officers, and other workers keeping them safe. Overall, it’s a quiet holiday compared to Thanksgiving in the U.S., with fewer turkeys, parades, and the other extravagant celebrations we’re accustomed to here. 

In January, southern Indians’ four-day Hindu festival called Pongal celebrates the rice, sugarcane, and turmeric harvest. Each day abounds with many unique rituals, and even these vary with region. For example, on the first day, people throw useless household items into a bonfire traditionally made of cow dung cakes and wood, symbolizing a new beginning. 

Liberia, a West African nation settled by American people of color, celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November. There is no traditional meal, and many Liberians who celebrate it view it as a religious occasion. 

In Brazil, Thanksgiving was introduced by an ambassador fascinated by typical American traditions. Dia de Ação de Graças is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November like in the U.S. At dinner, turkey (peru) is the main dish, but Brazilians pour jabuticaba sauce on it instead of cranberry sauce. In addition, the celebration begins with a church service to give thanks for the fall harvest and ends with a large carnival. 

Whether it’s engorging ourselves on a homemade pumpkin pie, writing cards, or attending a religious service, the desire to demonstrate our gratitude each year for and with our family and friends is universal to all cultures.