Tomorrow, Thursday November 25th, many Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. Most people in the United States get Thursday and Friday off of work and spend the day eating copious amounts of turkey with all the fixings, watching football, and then strategizing their shopping plan for "Black Friday." With the stores opening at 3am and earlier in some cases, there may not even be time to recover from the food coma before people head out to be one of the first in line for the best deals.
While a bulk of TravBuddies will be succumbing to the effects of the tryptophan in the turkey, for a number of others, it is just a normal day as Thanksgiving is not celebrated everywhere in the world. It may surprise you to learn that there are a few places around the world that also celebrate some form of Thanksgiving as well. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, here is a look at some of the Thanksgiving traditions around the world. And for those celebrating on the 25th, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
1. Thanksgiving in the United States
Over the years there has been debate as to the official start of the Thanksgiving holiday, but the event we most associate the holiday with is based on the pilgrims' feast of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Legend has it that colonists and Wampanoag Indians socialized over a multi-day feast that included fowl, eels, shellfish, stews, vegetables and beer, signaling the start of a treaty that lasted a number of years. Thanksgiving was a day to give thanks to God, a tradition often observed by New England colonists after major events like the end of a drought or a military victory.
The holiday became a national one at the enactment of the Constitution, but it was met with resistance by some and did not become an official holiday until Abraham Lincoln supported it in 1863.
Today, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November and the feast many of us enjoy is probably quite different from that of the pilgrims in 1621. Typical Thanksgiving Day meals include turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Many people have their own traditions that include sweet potatoes with marshmallows baked on top, green bean casserole, salads, and of course -- pumpkin pie for dessert.
Thanksgiving in the US also includes televised football games and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been a tradition since 1924.
For American Expats abroad, we often go to great lengths and expense to continue Thanksgiving traditions from home. Finding ingredients in other countries can be a challenge and expensive (we just paid $70 for an 11lb turkey in Taiwan). Some TravBuddies have gone as far as having turkeys shipped in! Katie (Khartl731) from Chicago was teaching English in South Korea several years ago and they had a turkey shipped from North America so their group could enjoy a Thanksgiving meal while they were all abroad. Now that's dedication!
If you have never experienced a traditional U.S. style Thanksgiving and have the opportunity, it is a fun way to experience the holiday while enjoying some delicious food -- especially if you luck out to try some special family recipes that have been passed down through generations!
2. Thanksgiving in Canada
Canada has its own Thanksgiving holiday as well that dates back to 1578. An explorer, Martin Frosbisher, held a ceremony in Newfoundland to celebrate and give thanks for returning safely from his journey to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean.
The Thanksgiving holiday has only been celebrated on the second Monday in October since 1957 after the Canadian Parliament declared: "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed -- to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October." Much like American Thanksgivings, the original celebration took place on a Thursday in November and changed each year to reflect important events.
Some of the American traditions, such as football and parades have found their way into the Canadian holiday as well. Typically, Canadians may celebrate over the three-day weekend with family feasts or choosing to go on a weekend getaway instead.
3. Thanksgiving in Leiden, Netherlands
A number of the pilgrims that ultimately wound up at the Plymouth, Massachusetts plantation lived in Leiden in the early 1600's. The late-Gothic church of Pieterskerk recorded many births, deaths, marriages, etc. for this group. In their honor, a service is held on the morning of the American Thanksgiving.
The Pieterskerk church is known today as the church of the "Pilgrim Fathers" and buried there is John Robinson, the pastor of the "Pilgrim Fathers" before they ventured off on the Mayflower.
4. Thanksgiving in Liberia
Liberia also has a Thanksgiving holiday that occurs on the first Thursday in November and follows the traditions of the US holiday. They celebrate it to give thanks to God and Americans for freeing the slaves. It is a day spent with family and a time to reflect on the gifts they have been given. Some traditional Liberian Thanksgiving Day eats include roasted chicken and green bean casserole. You might find their dishes with a bit more kick than usual since they use a lot of cayenne and other peppers. May need a good beer to wash those chilies down!
What other countries celebrate Thanksgiving? Have you celebrated a unique Thanksgiving celebration during your travels -- please share your experiences!
Initial turkey photo from Moonvera's blog