Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – it is all about showing gratitude to those we appreciate the most. Our family and friends have joined together for many years to break bread and enjoy a contemporary-traditional meal and day.
Our U.S. holiday occurs annually on the fourth Thursday in November, and Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second week of October. Various countries worldwide dedicate a day or a week to give thanks, appreciate blessings, show gratitude and celebrate harvests. Traditions vary as to how nations express thanks for blessings of the land, people and animals in the community. Here are some examples:
China’s Chung Chiu: The Moon Festival
These three days are dedicated to celebrate the autumn harvest and begins on the 15th day of the eighth lunar cycle. Families gather to give thanks with mooncakes as a staple. These sweet cakes are filled with a salty egg yolk (often a duck egg), which represents the full moon, as well as sesame and lotus seeds. People decorate and personalize their mooncakes, then exchange them as a representation of peace and unity.
UK’s Harvest Festival
This celebration was inspired from the Saxon farmers who focused on working the land and growing food, mostly einkorn (a type of wheat) and other grains. It is believed that to ensure a healthy and abundant harvest, the farmers should sacrificed an animal and the first sheaf of corn as an offering to the god of fertility. Legend says in the first sheaf the Spirit of the Corn lived; therefore to protect the harvest, the Saxon women created corn dolls to hang in rafters. Nowadays, the British still celebrate the harvest, decorate beautiful corn dolls and host dinners featuring seasonal produce.
Brazil’s O Dia de Ação de Graças
Translated from Portuguese to “Day of Thanksgiving,” this celebration was inspired by a Brazilian ambassador who traveled to the U.S. in 1949 and came back demanding to the then-President Gaspar Dutra a holiday like this. Brazil’s celebration began as an offer of gratitude to the Lord for good produce. The holiday takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. However, when hosting the feast with turkey and stuffing, the Brazilians serve their seasonal side dishes.
Homowo or “Yam festival” is a holiday in Ghana dedicated to thank the spirits for preventing hunger and an abundant harvest. Yams are a major crop in Ghana and are celebrated on this day. The day starts by honoring the twins and triplets of the community as well as all who have died in the tribe. Thay day consists of enjoying yam based dishes, wearing colorful traditional clothing and dancing to drums.
Malaysia’s Kadazan Harvest
This holiday celebrates an abundant and healthy rice harvest. This day is dedicated to Semangat, the rice god. To show gratitude, Malaysians prepare a variety of rice dishes. The rice feast is accompanied by carnivals with cultural programs, buffalo races, cultural games and agricultural shows.
What other international days of thanks do you celebrate? We’d love for you to share!
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, attorney, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (Wiley 2015), now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the corporate marketing manager and event coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Connect with her on LinkedIn.