Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, family and friends gather for food and companionship. On this day, known as Thanksgiving, tables are filled with turkey, potatoes, corn, bread, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and many people take in a football game or two. Since 1941, when Thanksgiving became a national holiday, our celebrations have honored the original feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. While the American version of Turkey Day is well-known, there are different versions of the holiday throughout the world. Some being days of thanks and gratitude, while other countries center Thanksgiving around the autumn harvests.
First celebrated in 1578 by English navigator Martin Frobisher who wanted to give thanks for the safety of his fleet, Canada’s Thanksgiving, Jour de I’Action de Grace, is very similar to the United States. While this is the originally documented Thanksgiving, historians believe that the holiday was observed by the First Nations, the indigenous peoples of Canada and Native Americans many years beforehand. Today, Canadians eat turkey and watch the Canadian Football League classics. The main difference is that Thanksgiving in Canada is honored on the second Monday in October.
Located in West Africa, Liberia was established in the early 1820s for freed slaves from the United States. With the help from the American Colonization Society, Christianity spread throughout Africa. About 60 years later, Liberia’s government passed an act stating that the first Thursday of November is Thanksgiving. Fast forward to modern day. Now, a Christian holiday, churches auction off baskets of fruit after their services for families to eat. Roast chicken and mashed cassavas, a vegetable like potatoes, are served instead of turkey. As for football, live music and dancing take its place.
Known as Kinro Kansha no Hi, Japan’s Thanksgiving started as a rice festival in the seventh century. Throughout the years, the meaning of the holiday has changed. It is now observed as a day honoring workers on November 23rd. Children thank police officers, firefighters and municipal workers. In addition, labor organizations host events, promoting hard work and community involvement.
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico’s Thanksgiving mirrors the United States’ festivities. They celebrate on the same day, eat turkey and even have their own Black Friday shopping experiences. However, there are a few unique spins Puerto Rico puts on the holiday. As for turkey, many consume a pavochon meal, a turkey similar to pork, or a turkey stuffed with mofongo, a mashed plantain dish. Roast pork is also popular for many people and is served with plantains, rice and beans.
Erntedankfest, which is known as the harvest festival of thanks, is Germany’s holiday. During the first Sunday of October, Germans join together with their churches and give thanks for their good fortunes. People also carry Erntekrones, or harvest crowns, made of grains, fruits and flowers in a procession to churches. A feast is also held.
On the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (between late September and late October), Sukkot, or the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles is observed in Israel. For seven days, Jewish people remember the Israelites and their 40 years of travel after their exodus in Egypt. Participants attend special prayer services and holiday meals.
There are many other countries throughout the world with their own Thanksgiving holidays. Some may be based on a day of giving thanks and gratitude, while others focus more on the autumn harvest. No matter how the day or days are spent, each Thanksgiving is special and holds a unique and valuable meaning to everyone involved.