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Which Other Countries Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Newsweek 6 days ago Emma Mayer
Above is a Thanksgiving table along with an image of a Toronto skyline. Canada, the UK, Grenada, and several other countries have their own Thanksgiving celebrations each year. © Gary Hershorn/L. Fritz/ClassicStock/Getty Images Above is a Thanksgiving table along with an image of a Toronto skyline. Canada, the UK, Grenada, and several other countries have their own Thanksgiving celebrations each year.

Thanksgiving is understood to be an American holiday, one that typically includes a feast and gatherings of family and friends. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November, it's meant to honor the spirit of a meal shared between 17th-century Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag Indians. However, the United States isn't the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.

While there are many differences between American Thanksgiving and international Thanksgiving celebrations, experts state that most of what sets America's Thanksgiving apart is the historical context.

"It's America's oldest tradition," Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience, told Newsweek. "It was a harvest festival to celebrate the Pilgrims' first harvest in North America and also to recognize the Native Americans who, without themselves, the Pilgrims would not survive, but the holiday really reflects our national identity."

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Thanksgiving was made possible by a writer named Sarah Josepha Hale, who, in the 1860s, campaigned for the creation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Deputy Executive Director of the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, Richard Pickering, told Newsweek that Hale believed that "if the nation could sit down at table," the rising tensions of the impending Civil War could be averted "by this national dinner of giving thanks and really exploring, 'What are we grateful for?'"

Since then, the traditions and symbols of Thanksgiving have spread to many countries across the globe. Though Thanksgiving can seem particularly American, below are many of the other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way.

Canada

In terms of tradition, Canadian Thanksgiving tends to align with the U.S., as Canada brings an array of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie feasts to the table.

Celebrated on the second Monday of October typically, Canadian Thanksgiving's history dates back to 1578 when British explorer Arthur Frobisher and his crew explored through the Northwest Passage and gave thanks over a meal after they returned safe and sound.

After the holiday was established on November 6, 1879, Canadians across the country have celebrated the harvest and given thanks since.

The United Kingdom

The U.K. does not have an official date for a Thanksgiving celebration, but some citizens still celebrate an autumnal Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving, and it is traditionally held in late September or early October.

Helen Hall, a professor at Nottingham Trent University, told Newsweek in an email that Thanksgiving in the U.K. is only celebrated by a minority of people and was not historically recognized in the past. In fact, Hall said, "Traditionalists tend to complain that it is irrational and inauthentic, given that the historical events in which it is rooted have zero relevance for people whose ancestors did not make the Atlantic crossing."

Some of the people who do celebrate Thanksgiving, Hall elaborated, typically do it for the sake of their American friends or family, or are interested in the holiday thanks to popular media and culture.

"There are also some representatives in the pro-Thanksgiving camp who are interested in our shared history and have a desire to connect with it, especially since the 2020 anniversary of the Mayflower crossing," Hall said. "This has certainly been noticeable where I live, in the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire area where a lot of the Pilgrims originated."

In terms of tradition, "there's a lot variety in what this looks like," Hall said. "It isn't a public holiday, and we don't tend to do big family gatherings. Some enthusiasts do try and do the full culinary experience with turkey, pumpkin pie, etc."

"Others who keep the festival just have a nice meal of some sort with people who also find the occasion meaningful, and focus on things that they're thankful for," Hall added.

Liberia

Liberia celebrates a Thanksgiving surrounding its own day of independence. It became the first democratic republic in African history in the year 1947, but in the 1800s, when freed slaves in the United States began to return to Liberia, they brought Thanksgiving traditions with them.

The celebration was declared a national holiday in 1883 and was celebrated on November 3 this year.

Japan

Japan celebrates a day called 勤労感謝の日 ("Kinro Kansha no Hi"), or "Labor Thanksgiving Day," a public holiday celebrated on November 23 of each year unless it falls on a Sunday.

The day commemorates laborers and allows time to celebrate the hard work that people have accomplished during the year. The first recorded celebration was in 660–585 BC by Emperor Jimmu, who declared it a day to celebrate the autumn harvest of rice, wheat, barley, and beans. It was officially established in 1948 and was intended to highlight the important changes to the Constitution of Japan regarding the expansion of workers' rights.

The day is celebrated with food and giving thanks, and one of the biggest traditions is for elementary-age children to make cards or prepare gifts and thank public workers—such as police officers, firefighters, doctors, and nurses—for their service.

Germany, Austria, Switzerland

German-speaking countries celebrate their own autumn harvest which is largely based on religious context. In early October, these nations celebrate Erntedankfest with music and parades, and food galore.

Grenada

Grenada, a country in the Caribbean, celebrates Thanksgiving on October 25, and it commemorates the anniversary of the 1983 Caribbean and American military intervention in Grenada.

In that year, Grenada's deputy prime minister executed the prime minister and seized power, and the American military stepped in just a few days later and restored order and power, resulting in a declared holiday to recognize the U.S.'s intervention.

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