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Thanksgiving Celebrations Around the World

Author: Lauren Curd

Thanksgiving has been an official American holiday since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the nation should spend a day expressing gratification, particularly to God. This annual event traces back to 1621 when the Pilgrims held a celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to commemorate the harvest, but these early events were centred on a dedicated church service, not a feast.

Today, Thanksgiving in the USA is one of the biggest national events on the calendar and marks the start of the festive season. Many businesses provide their staff with a four-day weekend and large groups of friends and family travel (often long distances) to be together and enjoy a delicious lunch. A traditional American Thanksgiving meal includes roast turkey, stuffing, a variety of potato dishes, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts and other vegetables, followed by a generous helping of pumpkin or pecan pie. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is aired on TV for those who can’t make it to New York City to watch it live and American football provides the entertainment for the rest of the day.

Several other countries around the world hold their own annual appreciation celebrations. The dates and customs varying greatly, but all festivals are held for the same reason - to give thanks for a successful harvest and year.


The second Monday of October is when Canadians join together for ‘Jour de l’Action de Grace’ – a day to celebrate the harvest and other good fortunes with a family feast. Thanksgiving in Canada is a statutory holiday in all of Canada’s provinces apart from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but is celebrated across the country. The Thanksgiving meal eaten is similar to that of their American neighbours and time is taken to enjoy the autumn colours in the great outdoors.


The first Thursday in November sees the West African country of Liberia celebrate Thanksgiving with dancing, music and food. It is considered an important day for appreciating freedom and the founding of their country. Roast chicken, spicy mashed cassavas and green bean casserole is served and families take a trip to church before enjoying an abundance of music, song and dance.

Puerto Rico

Thanksgiving is celebrated in Puerto Rico on the fourth Thursday in November, as in the USA, and this Caribbean island embraces the American holiday wholeheartedly. Puerto Ricans see Thanksgiving as the start of the Christmas season but their celebrations certainly possess a tropical flair. Their traditional feast includes fried plantain chips, mofongo-stuffed turkey, blood sausage, roast pork, rice, beans and tembleque – a coconut custard dessert coated in cinnamon.


‘Chuseok’ which translates as “fall evening” is a three day festival in Korea which takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Relatives from near and far join together and hold memorial services in their homes, known as Charye, to remember their ancestors.  After tucking in to ‘Songpyon’, a rice cake made from the harvested rice, beans, seeds and chestnuts, families gather under the moonlight to give thanks for a successful harvest.


China’s August Moon Festival – dating back 1000 years – shows appreciation for the summer harvest. Often considered as “Chinese Thanksgiving”, the moon is believed to be at its roundest and brightest on this day. Friends and families gift each other moon cake to show their affection and regard.


**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**


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