Coming together to give thanks for good friends, family and food are not exclusive to the Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States and Canada. Giving thanks around the world takes on many forms. Check out these amazing festivals that commemorate a great harvest every year!
South India: Pongal, the Harvest Festival
Pongal is a four day celebration that takes place every January. This festival marks the beginning of the end of the winter season in India. The second day is considered the most important part of the festival and is the day dedicated to worshipping the sun god. Locals toss their old clothes into a fire, give each other oil massages and then sport new clothes to celebrate. Food plays a key role in the celebrations and special dishes like sarkkarai pongal (a sweet rice dish) are prepared.
Erntedankfest, the “Thanksgiving Day” in Germany, is a predominantly religious celebration that takes place on the first Sunday in October. Just like Thanksgiving in the United States, Erntedankfest is centered on giving thanks for the year’s harvest. During many church services throughout the day, giant woven baskets filled with fruits, grains, and vegetables are carried to the church, blessed, and then distributed to the poor. In the evening comes the feast. The traditional foods are very similar to American Thanksgiving dishes. One unique part of the banquet is mohnstriezel, which is a kind of sweet bread sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Barbados: Crop Over
The traditional harvest festival in Barbados is called Crop Over and features climbing a greased pole, feasting, drinking competitions and a calypso music competition where people dance and sing. The celebration lasts from June to August and has become Barbados’ largest national festival. If you get the chance to celebrate Crop Over don’t miss the traditional dish of Macaroni Pie and Fried Flying Fish or the delicious delicacy of Pudding n’ Souse!
United Kingdom: Harvest Festival
This festival is rooted in the traditions of Saxon farmers cutting the first sheaf of corn and offering it to please the fertility gods to give them an abundant harvest. The Saxons believed that the Spirit of the Corn resided in the first cut of corn and in order to protect the harvest they would make dolls made of corn with braided plaits and put them in the rafters of the barn. Today these corn dolls are still made each year to celebrate Harvest Festival. Traditionally a huge feast is served to celebrate the successful harvest. To give thanks, children typically bring gifts of fruit and vegetables to churches and schools so that they can help to feed the less fortunate.
Sukkot, commonly translated as the Feast of Tabernacles, is a biblical holiday celebrated between late September and late October. The festival originally was considered a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest. During this celebration Jewish people reflect on how the Israelites felt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt, as referenced in the Bible. Sukkot is celebrated by, first of all, building a sukkah. Sukkah are hut-like structures that the Jews lived in during the 40 years of travel through the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. As a temporary dwelling, the sukkah also represents the fact that all existence is fragile, and therefore the Sukkot celebration is a time to give thanks for our homes and our bodies.
China: August Moon Festival
During China’s August Moon Festival millions of Mooncakes (flaky, round, semi-sweet pastries) are made and given as gifts during the celebration. This 1,000-year-old festival is often thought of as “Chinese Thanksgiving” because of its spirit of gratitude and abundant food. The tradition is meant to give thanks for the bountiful summer harvest and pay respects to the myth of the immortal goddess, Chang O, who lives in the moon.
“We are many, we are one,
Brothers and sisters wherever you’re from.
We all dance to a different drum.
We are many, but we are one.”
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