Thanksgiving: Outside the United States
Although Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday whose folklore or history, depending on your perspective, is well known by every American school child, harvest time holidays are common throughout the world whose themes don’t stray far from giving thanks for what one has. However the specific harvest time festival of Thanksgiving is celebrated in several places outside the United States.
One society who celebrates Thanksgiving is our neighbor to the north, Canada. While the exact origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are unknown scholars have several thoughts. Some attribute it to Martin Frobisher who put on a celebration to give thanks for he and his crews survival of the long passage from England – on the way they encountered dangers such as storms and icebergs. Some credited the settlers of New France who came over with explorer Samuel d Champlain who gave thanks for a successful harvest.
As various settlers began arriving from Europe and New England they brought the harvest traditions of their homeland to Canada.
Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Liberia, the only African country created by American colonization. American freed slaves settled the colony in the 1820s. These freed slaves brought the traditional American Thanksgiving with them to Liberia. However, since turkey and pumpkin aren’t indigenous food stuffs they have been replaced with things like roast chicken and mashed cassavas – both much spicier than the food average Americans eat. Their celebrations also included church services, music, song and dance.
Norfolk Island, a territory of Australia, originally established by the mutineers of the HMS Bounty and their Tahitian captives, celebrates a version of Thanksgiving brought over by American Whaling ships.
Between 1609 and 1620 some Pilgrims who would later settle at Plymouth Plantation first come to the Netherlands. Because many had recorded marriages, births and deaths there there is a non-denominational celebration every year in honor of the Pilgrims who escaped religious persecution.
The German Erntedankfest – a Christian celebration – is a Thanksgiving-like holiday that while mostly religious in nature includes large harvest dinners.
In Japan, in November, there is a Labor Thanksgiving Holiday (roughly translated) in which people give thanks to each other and celebrate hard work. Though created during the American occupation after WWII the celebration has its roots in an ancient festival also celebrating hard work.
All over the world, whether the fruit on an American root or not, during harvest time many people take time out of their busy lives to spend with family to remember to reflect on on what they have been given.