By Christine Mason
Which countries celebrate Thanksgiving? Depending upon the Google site you use, you’ll find anything from 5-15 countries, including the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, Japan, the Norfolk Islands, South Korea, the Netherlands, Lithuiana, Ghana, Grenada, China, Brazil, Barbados, and Vietnam. Thanksgiving is not celebrated on the same day or in the same way in each country.
Several countries have obliviously been influenced by Americans and celebrate a very similar feast (Canada, the Norfolk Islands, and Liberia). However, Thanksgiving was actually established in Canada in 1578 (earlier than the American tradition) and was built on similar celebrations from Europe, even as America has influenced the Canadian tradition. Thanksgiving was brought to the Norfolk Islands (Near Australia) in the 1800s by an American trader. Liberia was founded by freed American slaves and they celebrate with roast chicken and mashed cassavas (a woody root that is the source of tapioca). Grenada began to celebrate in 1983, as a part of giving thanks for American troops that invaded the country during a time of chaos.
In Germany, Erntedankfest is a celebration of the fall harvest. China has a mid-autumn moon and harvest celebration with mooncakes (big, round, moon shape flaky pastries filled with fruit, nuts and eggs).
Thanksgiving in Japan is actually a combination of giving thanks and celebrating worker’s rights. South Koreans give thanks to their ancestors on Chuseoks Day as they also celebrate the autumn harvest with sticky, honey-sweetened rice cakes filled with toasted sesame seeds, peas, or chestnuts.
In Brazil, it is ‘Dia de Acao de Gracas’ with foods that are like our American tradition, with turkey (called Peru), sweet potatoes, and jabuticaba sauce as a replacement for cranberries. Jabuticabas are a fascinating fruit that grow right out of the bark of trees, looking like thick skinned purple grapes, with pink or white sweet flesh inside.
In Vietnam it is Tet Trung Thu Festival – the ‘Festival of Children’ – a tradition that began for children when parents were able to once again spend more time with them after the fall harvests. In Barbados, there is celebration at the end of the sugar cane season with dancing, carnivals, colorful costumes, and parades. In Lithuiania, it is a “Festival of the Old Woman” with beets, rye bread, and a scarecrow made up to look like an old woman. Ghanians celebrate a Homowo Festival from May to August to give thanks for the rainy season, honoring their resiience in a time of hunger, and celebrated with a traditional pine-nut fish soup.
After looking at this list, I can almost guarantee that with a little searching and imagination, we could find Thanksgiving celebrations for many more countries, and perhaps even for most countries. As you consider the children at your school, what do you know about their Thanksgiving traditions? Have you found a way to honor the diversity and recognize the gifts of sharing something about one’s culture and traditions?
Visualizations. Can you visualize sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner in another country? Which country? What would be on your table? How would you celebrate?
Affirmations. Thanksgiving is typically a time for giving thanks for what we have – for family, home, food, and friends, for peace and health. However, there is also a magic in affirming ahead of time one’s thanks for something to come. “I am thankful for my continued good health,” “I am thankful for the friendships I am making and will make next year,” “I am thankful for peace that is pervasive and leaders who are growing in the depth of their compassion and the good will and good works they promote.” Affirmations can be a way to visualize an even better future.
This Year. Consider this year as you celebrate, visualizing how others are celebrating, visualizing an even better world, and affirming your thanks for that which is yet to come.