While we are all quite familiar with this month's highlight holiday, let us look into the different Thanksgiving celebrations worldwide:
Canadian Thanksgiving, Second Monday of October
An annual holiday in North America which originally started as a religious holiday. Its earliest recorded celebration is traced back in 1578 after a safe journey by explorer Martin Frobisher. In Quebec, it is recognized as 'Action de Grace' where celebrations are a lot more low-key than the Thanksgiving celebration in the US.
Kadazan Festival - Malaysia, Month-long celebration; May
The Kaamatan is a significant festivity for the ethnic indigenous group in the state of Sabah in Malaysia - the Kadazans. With rice farming contributing a large part in their culture and livelihood, the Kaamatan is a harvest festival that celebrates the god Bambaazon whose daughter was sacrificed to save the people suffering famine. Traditional games and performances play an important part in the festival's program. Various rice dishes including beverages are among the star of the holiday table.
Homowo Festival - Ghana, August
Homowo, meaning “to hoot at hunger”, is a festival by the Ga people of Ghana. The fishing season and planting of millets marks the start of the Homowo season which ends during harvest time around September. A month-long noise-free environment is practiced, where any form of noise in public such as drumming, music and other noise-producing elements are not allowed, prior to the actual celebration of the festival. The homecoming for Ga people, known as Soobii, are the pilgrims who travel back home to their families bearing harvest goods which will be prepared for the traditional meal. It is also a time for reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness among each other. The kpekple, or kpokoi, made from maize served with palm soup, traditional dancing, and the twins are the significant elements of this Ghana festival.
Erntedankfest - Germany, September or October, depending on the region
An autumn harvest festival celebrated every year. In some places, it falls within the time of wine harvest which is November. The Erntedank or Ertedankfest is all about observance in churches which includes the thanksgiving procession with the presentation of the crown for Erntekonigin, the harvest queen. How the Germanic Ertedankfest is celebrated varies in different places in Europe, but usually, the day continues with a rural funfair of parades, music and dancing, and food. While truthahn or turkey is also a part of this celebration, this German Thanksgiving differs as it does not practice grand feasting and get-togethers.
Harvest Moon Festival / Mid-Autumn Festival, September
Second to Chinese New Year, the Harvest Moon Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most significant holidays in the Chinese culture. Based on their calendar, it falls on the 15th day of the eighth month and at the time of the year during the moon’s best feature - roundest and brightest. The celebration is distinguished by traditional practices like letting up lanterns, display of dragon and lion dance, and different customs in other regions, offering mooncakes of various flavors to the moon, and serving them during festivities with families and friends. The roundness of this traditional food is a representation of reunion of families and relatives and evokes a feeling of longing from those who live afar.
Pongal Festival - India, January
Pongal is a four-day harvest celebration of thanks among Tamils in India. On day 1, Bhogi, the locals get rid of their old household items and head out to purchase new ones marking a new cycle. The following is called Perum, a day of prayers and offering to the sun god, Surya Pongal. This is also the day when locals are dressed in new clothes and houses are decorated with rice flour and red clay. Apart from worshipping the sun god, the cattle, believed to contribute to fruitful harvest, is also an important part of Pongal and is worshipped on the third day, Mattu Pongal. On the fourth, and last day is the highlight of festivities filled with picnics, food, dancing, family gatherings, and other traditions.
Labor Thanksgiving Day or Kinrokanshahi - Japan, November
While many of us across the world have a festive harvest time as a way of giving thanks, Japan has a unique way of showing its appreciation. The 23rd of the month of November celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday that recognizes the local citizens’ dedication and hard work to their jobs. Government offices are closed while the majority of the businesses operate on this day. Celebrations, though not as big as the others’, still take place.
Whichever country you wish to celebrate Thanksgiving, nothing beats having to share such experience with those close to our hearts and be able to share blessings especially to the needy.