Culture

Chuseok and Other Thanksgiving Celebrations from Around the World

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The idea of Thanksgiving can seem as American as the apple pie that you eat following all of that turkey and stuffing. Its roots are in the history of our country, long before it even became the country that we know today. As a refresher, the Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod in November of 1620. They traveled from Holland for over two months aboard the Mayflower. They intended to land along the Hudson River, but winds resulted in their arrival further north. While we talk a lot about the Pilgrims here in the States, the primary reason for Thanksgiving is to be grateful for the changing of the seasons, and of course for the bountiful harvest.

But did you know that we are not the only country in the world to celebrate a day of thanks? Far from it, in fact. Here, we take a look around the globe at how, and why, different nations celebrate their version of Thanksgiving. Do you come from another culture that celebrates a similar day? Let us know in the comments!

6. Canada — Canadian Thanksgiving

When? The second Monday of October

If you haven’t heard of anything else on this list, you have probably at least heard of Canadian Thanksgiving. The focus of the day, which is often celebrated during the weekend before the actual holiday, isn’t on Pilgrims at all. It has more in common with the “Thanksgivings” in Europe, as it celebrates the harvest. You’ll still see plenty of pumpkins and cornucopia, though, for decoration.

5. South Korea — Chuseok

When? The 14th day of the 8th lunar month. Lasts for 3 days

This harvest festival usually falls at some point in late September or early October around the time of the full moon. To celebrate, Koreans typically feast on traditional food and rice wines, and visit their ancestral hometowns. Songpyeon is one food that is often enjoyed during Chuseok. It is a delicious rice cake stuffed with foods like black beans, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nuts, and honey.

4. Japan — Labor Thanksgiving Day

When? November 23

In ancient times, the Japanese celebrated the harvest on this holiday, as many other cultures do. But in modern times (reignited after WWII) it has been a day to commemorate production, good work, and to give thanks. Labor Thanksgiving also gives the Japanese an opportunity to focus on the environment, human rights, and peace.

3. Germany — Erntedank

When? Mid-September or early October

This special day gives Germans (and those across the Rhineland) the opportunity to thank God for the harvest. It involves huge celebrations, parades, church services, dancing, and concerts that span three days. In more rural areas, the feel of the few days is much like a country fair. It is not uncommon to finish the festival off with fireworks as well!

2. China — Chung Chiu — Moon Festival

When? The 15th day of the 8th lunar cycle

This moon festival, which occurs when the moon is full and bright, is similar to Thanksgiving in the United States because it celebrates the fall harvest and expresses thanks for the changing of the seasons. But unlike Americans, the Chinese do not eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. Instead, they feast on mooncakes, which are small, sweet pastries that are filled with things such as ground lotus seeds and sesame seeds.

1. United Kingdom— Harvest Festival

When? Around the harvest moon closest to the autumnal equinox

At this time of year, ancient farmers would offer up their first cut of corn (and a slaughtered animal) to a fertility god in the hopes of a bountiful harvest. To this day, corn plays an important part in the United Kingdom’s Harvest Festival. The English make corn dolls, and everyone celebrates the harvest by feasting on the season’s fresh produce.