This week is only the beginning of giving thanks and coming together. You see a shift in the general mood of the American public. Homes light up with harvest decorations, we begin to bust out our favorite sweaters, adorn our house with pumpkins, and show our gratitude for another fruitful year and the valuable time we get to spend with our loved ones.
In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving with family, friends, and lots of food. The traditional American version of this holiday is a time to give thanks for blessings, celebrate our nation’s history, feast on a bird (or several), and watch football games. But what we don’t consider is all the different cultures around the world that share similar harvesting holidays.
In fact, there are several other cultures that celebrate similar celebrations around harvest time. Getting to understand other cultures celebratory holidays, make us thankful for not only how diverse the world is but how similarly we give thanks for the food we have on the table, the clothes we have on our back, and the people in our lives.
In this article, we’ll explore how several cultures have a harvest festival of some sort.
Around the world: a brief history of harvest celebrations
Turkey (the country!): Turkey happens to have the most holidays per year—and one of them is a harvest festival called Şeker Bayramı, or Sweet Holiday. It commemorates the end of the harvest season and also happens after the month long fasting for Ramadan. It’s celebrated on the first day of the Islamic month and participants exchange sweets and gifts after feasting on foods.
Canada: In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on a different date than the US holiday. Despite being celebrated on a different date, Canadian Thanksgiving is similar to the American version. Foods traditionally served at a Canadian Thanksgiving include roasted meats, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, and various harvest vegetables. Some historians believe that the first Canadian Thanksgiving festival occurred before the American one.
Thailand: Thais celebrate Loi Krathong on the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar (which is usually October). The celebration is a mix of Buddhist, Hindu, and animist beliefs. Participants create small boats out of rice and flowers and then float them down a stream or river. The intention of the “floating of the bowl” is to cleanse the bad things in their life and look towards a new year. This is also a time for lovers to let each other know that they’re “floating the boat” for each other. Food is a central theme with beautiful, colorful dishes that include meats in baskets (like the ones they float down the rivers).
India: Diwali (which we touched on previously) is the Hindu harvest festival that also marks the beginning of winter. People exchange gifts and visit family members as a way of gathering and celebrating together. The occasion is marked by colorful decorations of lights and the exchange of gifts.
Japan: Tsukimi or Otsukimi, meaning, "moon-viewing", is a Japanese festivals that honors the autumn moon. Japanese gather with family, make dumplings in the shape of the moon, and eat them on the night of the full moon. It is thought that if someone eats the dumpling on the fool moon, it will bring good health and happiness in the coming year.
China: The harvest festival in China that occurs in October is another celebration of the moon. It dates back to the Chinese Dynasty. During this harvest celebration, people offer thanks to the gods and ancestors, clean the house, and care to plants. Chinese eat “moon cakes” to celebrate the moon and its influence on the harvest. They also prepare for the coming winter by burning firecrackers.
As you can see, we may all culturally different and our celebrations may not be the exact same but, during the harvest season some things remain constant: food is abundant, loved ones are brought together, we give thanks for that to come and what is behind us, and people set time aside to celebrate.
It’s a chance to come together with friends and family, give thanks for the things in our lives, and enjoy some delicious food. When you go to bite into your turkey or pumpkin pie this thanksgiving, think about how lucky you are to live in such a diverse world, yet so similar to your own!