In the US, the Thanksgiving tradition has evolved to represent a time to share with friends and family, eat copious amounts of food, and toast the many wonderful blessings each of us has to be grateful for…from a special person to a satisfying career, from a new car or home to a perfectly behaved pet. As one of the owners of Zoom Vacations, I am especially grateful for the opportunity to share in similar traditions in many of the places we visit!
Various countries around the world have their own holidays and celebrations of gratitude, especially gratitude for an abundant harvest, and many of them predate Thanksgiving in America.
For instance, India has several such festivals. Mainly celebrated in northern India on January 13th, the holiday of Lohri, marks a good crop, and is of significant importance to families who are also celebrating a major event, such as a birth or recent wedding. Celebrations predominately take place in the Punjab region.
Also in India, ‘Ladin’ or ‘Ladainha’ is celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary in the Christian State of Goa. The locals thank God for the spiritual and material blessings in their lives, through food, decoration, and performance, largely taking place in churches or religious settings. Farmers offer the first cuts of their harvest to God.
The Tamil people, who live predominately in Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius, and Malaysia, enjoy a 4 day end of harvest festival in January called “Pongal”. It is especially celebrated in Tamil Nadu, 1 of the 29 states of India. Traditionally, during this time the Tamil people give thanks to the sun, and feast on pongal, a dish made of boiled rice and milk, with many variations.
Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, is the August Moon festival, also known as the Women Festival. Friends, family and loved ones offer moon cakes to one another in a sign of appreciation. On this day in China, it is said that the moon is at its biggest and brightest, and it is a day when lovers will open their hearts to each other.
Vietnam’s celebration, “Trung Thu” occurs near the time of the Chinese festival, with a focus on family. Fake money is burned to send good fortune to relatives in the afterlife, and children light lamps to illuminate a bright future.
Keeping with August 15th date and continuing for 3 days is the Korean festival “Chu-Sok”, which means “fall evening”. Korean families get together in moonlight and honor their ancestors. Then, they eat a special rice, bean, chestnut, and sesame seed dish called “Songpyon”, and children do a special circular blessing dance.
Candied yams are often an essential part of the American Thanksgiving feast. But the New Yam Festival of the Igbo people of Africa takes this to a whole other level, as the Igbo people, mainly of Nigeria unite to praise the significance of yams. As a vital part of their diet and culture, the Igbo people honor the yam with music, dancing, parades, and the consumption of, you guessed it, yams.
Celebrated in various parts of Europe on November 11th is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. As its name implies, it is a feasting celebration, and marks the completion of fall wheat seeding. St. Martin was an important friend and patron to children and to the poor, and legend has it that he cut his garment in half to cover a beggar and save him from dying of cold in a snow storm. The eating of goose on this day originates from the story that St. Martin had hid in a goose pen, to avoid being ordained bishop, but the squawking of geese revealed his location. Today, throughout many countries in Europe, such as Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Spain, and others it is largely a day dedicated to children. Loved ones come together to share large meals, often consisting of goose, duck, or pig. However, it is not a recognized and nor universally acknowledged holiday in every country. Of course German people also celebrate Erntedankfest, a largely religious celebration, meaning harvest festival of thanks.
Brazilian Thanksgiving has it origins in the USA…kind of. Apparently a recent US Ambassador of Brazil fell in love with the concept of Thanksgiving and brought it back to Brazil. The celebration is about giving thanks to God for an abundant harvest.
Argentina has perhaps my favorite Thanksgiving/harvest celebration. Grapes and wine take center stage in Mendoza Argentina’s Fiesta de la Vendimia, which started in 1936. In current times, people come from all over the country and even the world for parades, fireworks, and of course, wine.
Canadians have been celebrating their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October for 43 years longer than Americans have. It is a time for celebrating an abundant harvest, often done with special pies filled with rabbit, fowl, and potatoes. In the Eastern provinces, Swedish and maritime influences inspire them to make fish sausage and many foods related to their maritime roots
Wherever you live, and however you choose to celebrate (or not) this holiday, one thing is certain: the more we live with gratitude and love, the more blessings we will see in our own lives and in the world. Giving thanks is more than just a idea, and certainly more than just a holiday: it is a way of life.
Thank you for being part of our Zoom family.