When it comes to the Thanksgiving, Americans live by the 3 F’s: food, football and family. Americans look forward to the fourth Thursday of November, but more importantly, await the delicious and festive food that the holiday is centered around. Whether it be a scrumptious sweet potato pie or a juicy herb-crusted stuffed turkey, Americans know how to do Thanksgiving right.
Although Thanksgiving is generally thought of as being an American holiday, countries around the world have celebrations that share the similar idea of gratefulness. Food is an essential part of life, so it’s fitting that many cultures have celebrations that also express their gratitude for it.
1. South India: Pongal Harvest Festival
One of the most important Hindu celebrations, Pongal, is regarded as the Harvest festival of South India. Today Pongal is a four-part celebration with each of the four days having its own unique tradition.
In hopes of having a bountiful harvest, the people of South India make offerings to the gods. Families show their appreciation to their deities and animals by honoring and showing tribute to them. On the second day, The Sun God, Surya Pongal, is honored with a special dish called sarkkarai pongal and sugarcane sticks. Sarkkarai pongal is a classic sweet dish made by boiling rice in milk and jiggery.
2. United Kingdom: Harvest Festival
Traditionally held on or around the Sunday of the Harvest Moon, the Harvest Festival of the United Kingdom is the celebration of the harvest. Using a sheaf of corn, the English create a “corn idol” or “dolly” to symbolize the Goddess of the grain. This icon, along with a sacrificial animal, is used as an offering to fertility gods to ensure an abundant harvest.
Today, the people of the United Kingdom still make corn idols and observe the holiday with a large feast featuring the season’s best produce. Although the Harvest Festival is an important event in the UK, it is not recognized as a national holiday.
3. Liberia: National Thanksgiving Day
The Liberian government passed an act declaring the first Thursday of November as National Thanksgiving Day in the early 1880s. Since Liberians have several holidays that are in common with and honor the United States, their Thanksgiving has many of the same traditions as an American Thanksgiving.
The Liberian Thanksgiving is celebrated to express gratitude to God and Americans for freeing the slaves and letting them live as free men in Africa. Furthermore, Thanksgiving is a time to look past all of the internal conflicts Liberia has faced and to recognize the beauty of life. Liberians gather and eat a big feast with dishes such as roasted chicken, green bean casserole and mashed cassavas. They have a liking for hot and spicy food, so lots of cayenne and other hot peppers are incorporated into their dishes.
4. China: “Chung Chiu” Moon Festival
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chung Chiu Moon Festival is one of the largest Chinese festivals. Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eight lunar cycle, this holiday is dedicated to the moon and autumn harvest. The holiday dates back to over 2000 years ago when Chinese leaders would relate the patterns of the moon to the changes in life.
Today, the Chinese come together to feast and celebrate with their families for three days. The spread features mooncakes, a sweet filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs. The mooncake’s center is filled with a salty yolk to represent the full moon. Families and friends often exchange the tasty mooncakes as a sign of unity and peace.
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