A Study Guide to Harvest and Thanksgiving Day Festivals Around the World
A United Nations Thanksgiving Proclamation
In November 1997, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously declared the year 2000 as the International Year of Thanksgiving. This declaration marked the first time the General Assembly voted unanimously in favor of a spiritual idea, according to the Center for World Thanksgiving. This organization is based at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, Texas, and has coordinated celebrations in different parts of the world. Its staff also gathers information on harvest and thanksgiving festivals throughout the year.
In fact, seven nations of the world celebrate officially declared Thanksgiving Days: Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Argentina, and the United States. And, while these seven nations have official days of thanksgiving, many countries have unofficial festivals of thanksgiving that are held throughout the year. In Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, harvest festivals have been taking place for centuries.
Indeed, people from various cultures all over the world celebrate the communal gathering of a good crop. These various harvest festivals are observed with different names and in different seasons, with each region embracing its unique customs and traditions to celebrate the occasion. Though the mode of celebration may differ from one culture to another, prayer, parades, and feasts are common with shared feelings of gratitude, harmony, and peace.
Harvest Festivals Listing
Featured below is a sampling of harvest festivals held around the world. For a more extensive listing visit Australian Media.com.
For Americans, the harvest festival is held on the fourth Thursday of November and is called Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving feast tradition goes back to 1621 when Pilgrims shared a celebration with the Native Wampanoag People. Read information on the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade held each year.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is a three-day weekend with the main celebration on the second Monday in October. The first official Canadian Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on April 5, 1872, in gratitude for the Prince of Wales' recovery from a serious illness. The holiday was not officially recognized again until 1879, when Parliament declared Thanksgiving to be an annual national secular holiday. The date was moved several times, finally being set at its current date in 1957.
The Yam Festival in Ghana is usually held in the beginning of August at the end of the rainy season. A popular holiday in both Ghana and Nigeria, the Yam Festival is named after the most common food in many African countries—yams, which are the first crops to be harvested. People offer yams to gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers, as a way of giving thanks to the spirits above them.
The Harvest Moon Festival in China is a popular East Asian celebration of abundance and togetherness, dating back over 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (usually around mid or late September in the Gregorian calendar), a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar.
Chusok is a Korean harvest (Thanksgiving) celebration, which is also held on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Family members visit the tombs of their ancestors and offer them rice and fruit.
Têt-Trung-Thu in Vietnam takes place on August 15. Children are the center of the holiday, also called the Children’s Festival, an occasion for parents to show their love of their children.
In South America, many of the native Indian cultures express gratitude and thanksgiving, and in modern Brazil, a special public day of thanksgiving and prayer has been designated for the fourth Thursday of November every year since 1949.
Succoth is the Jewish Harvest Festival that begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishri—it is usually held in September and October. Succoth traditions and customs that have both historical and religious significance are a part of the celebration, which lasts for 7 days.
India has a number of popular harvest-related festivals in different regions: Pongal (January 14), Baisakhi (April 13) , Lohri (January 13), Onam (mid-August), etc. Though the underlying principles behind each of them are the same—joy and hope—every festival is exclusive and different from the other. The Hindu Council of Australia provides a comprehensive list and full details of sixteen of India’s varied and zestful festivals.
In Germany, there are two holidays associated with thanksgiving. Read Learn about Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) in Germany and St. Martin Celebrations in Germany: History and Vocabulary
Celebrating the Importance of Cultural Diversity and Foreign Language Study
Though the countries that celebrate thanksgiving do so in different ways, the common denominator is the overwhelming celebratory unity of family and friends. At Thanksgiving time, people all around the world have much to celebrate. Our lives are enriched when we embrace the importance of cultural diversity and foreign language study.