The festival of Thanksgiving is predominantly celebrated in the United States and Canada. It is a kind of harvest festival whose impact is felt throughout the world. Thus this festival is celebrated worldwide. So enlighten yourself about the traditions and customs which are associated with the celebration of this particular festival. Get to know more about how this harvest festival which is celebrated around the world.
United States of America
Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in America. Generally, the festival is observed as an expression of gratitude to God. It is an occasion to give thanks to God for the bounty of the autumn harvest.
In the United States, the holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. This year it falls on Thursday, November 23. President Abraham Lincoln was the first US president to officially declare the festival as the last Thursday in November “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,”.
The event commonly called “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Now Thanksgiving have become part of Fall/Winter holiday season including Christmas and the New Year in the USA.
On the other hand, In Canada, where the harvest generally ends earlier in the year, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October, which is observed as Columbus Day.
Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with a feast shared among friends and family. In the United States, it is an important family holiday. People often travel across the country to be with family members for the holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday is generally a “four-day” weekend in the United States. Americans are given the relevant Thursday and Friday off. Thanksgiving is almost entirely celebrated at home.
The people of Canada celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. On the other hand, America celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. Also In Canada, instead of eating turkey they have ham or lamb and they used to have La tourtiere, a pastry pie filled with potatoes, rabbit or hare and partridge or pheasant. Thanksgiving is celebrated to thank the Lord Almighty for a bountiful harvest.
‘Harvest Festival’ as is popularly known, is one of the oldest festivals in the United Kingdom. It began in churches in the year 1843 when Robert Hawker invited local parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at a church in Cornwall. This resulted in the custom of decorating churches with home-grown products. There is an ancient ceremony known as the “crying of the neck” which takes place in Cornwall. In the old times, the success of crops determined the success or failure of the people.
The natives of UK pleased the God of fertility by offering him the first sheaf of corn. This was done to ensure a good harvest in the coming season. The last sheaf to be harvested is held up and blessed by the local vicar. It is said that the last sheaf of corn contains its spirit “Corn dolls” are made to symbolize Goddess of grain. The last sheaf used to be kept through the winter and then plowed into the ground at the time of the next spring planting. During the festival, the entire community is invited for a dinner as part of the festivity. It is held every year in the month of September. This is however not declared a national holiday.
Northern Indian Harvest Festival
In Northern India, People celebrate harvest festival during the spring season, which is either in late February or early March. People harvest their wheat in spring. This is also the time for Holi, which is a Hindu Harvest festival. Holi lasts for five days. Everyone dresses up, or buy new clothes during the occasion. People wear old clothes as part of the celebration and throw colored water and Red Powder at each other and indulge in the fun of the festival. Holi is the festival where all whether they are family, friends or strangers get the same treatment.
Eastern Indian Harvest Festival.
The primary crop harvested in Eastern India is Rice. Springtime is the season of love and at this time they celebrate the love story of the God, Krishna, and Radha.
The images of the two gods surrounded by flowers are pulled by decorated animals in a procession through the streets. People offer flowers before the images in the temples. The love story of Krishna and Radha is dramatized or it is recalled by reading verses from a very long poem known as the Bhagavata Purana. Bhagavata Purana means “Ancient Stories of the Lord”.
Southern Indian Harvest Festival
Onam is one of the most popular harvest festivals of Kerala in Southern India. It is a time for everyone to reap the benefits of a good harvest after a year of hard work and labor. Onam festival is celebrated in the memory of popular King Mahabali. The festival is a time for communal thanks-giving. The famous ‘Snake boat‘ race is organized every year. It is a season of dances, songs, food, worshipping among other festivities. Women wear new sarees and they dress up their children in colorful clothes. The traditional ‘Pookkalam’ a flower mat that adorns the courtyard of almost every house. ‘Payasam’ is the most popular dish among the various dishes during this festival.
Pongal is another four days of harvest festival in Southern India which is celebrated with immense joy and enthusiasm. It is celebrated on the 14th of January every year. Pongal means the boiling of milk and rice. Born fire and feasting is a common feature of the festival. Pongal is also known as ‘VenPongal’ and during this festival, farmers express their gratitude. Pongal is basically held to honor the Sun for a bountiful harvest. People decorate their houses and families gather together to rejoice and offer Pongal to Sun. There is a belief that celebrating the harvest festival will bring prosperity, joy, and happiness.
Thanksgiving is basically a harvest-related festival which celebrates communal harmony. Though this festival is said to have been originated in America, a number of other countries also celebrate harvest related festivals. The festival is observed with different names and in different seasons. In Australia, we can see a number of harvest festivals. These are listed below:
Lavender Festival, Hops Festival, Apple Festival & Grape Festival, Renmark Orange week Festival, Cane Festival, Wheat Festival.
The August Moon Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Moon Cake Festival is one of the most celebrated Chinese harvest festivals.
The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the autumnal equinox. This festival of China ends with a big feast. The Chinese have Moon Cakes during the festival. Friends and relatives send Mooncakes to each other as a way of giving thanks. People enjoy music and dancing and eating round yellow Moon Cakes.
The Autumn Moon festival has much in common with the Thanksgiving Festival. At this time, the moon is at its fullest and brightest which becomes an ideal time to celebrate the abundance of the summer’s harvest. The Round mooncakes are baked and enjoyed, ornate lanterns are made and hung, and lovers are encouraged to come out of their homes and relax in the glow of the full moon.
Malaysia is situated in central Southeast Asia. The Kadazan is the harvest festival of Malaysia which is celebrated in the month of May by Sabah every year to thank their favorite Rice God.
The local people have given the name of “Tadau ka’amatan” to this festival. The local people wear their traditional costumes to mark the festival. Tapai is the homemade rice wine which is distributed generously among localities. Carnivals are an important part of the festival.
Worship of Demeter as their goddess of all grains seems to have occurred primarily in connection to natural fertility. Every year during autumn, the festival of Thesmosphoria was held to honor the goddess.
On the very first day of the festival, Married women build leafy shelters and furnish them with couches which were made with plants. On the Second day, they had a fast. On the third day, a feast was held and they offer gifts of seed corn, cakes, fruits, and pigs to the goddess Demeter. They had a hope that Demeter who was their god would grant them a good harvest.
Across the nation in September and October, you’ll find communities coming together to celebrate the changing of the seasons and the successful harvest of another crop. more than enough left so that you should be able to find a popular harvest festival near you.
In Alaska each fall, people held a series of festivals and spiritual ceremonies after the end of salmon fishing and the berry harvest. These festivals lasted throughout the winter months. People were addressing the spirits who could help or harm them by dance and songs. They also appealed to the souls of animals upon whom everyone’s life depended.
Chu Suk is the popular harvest festival in Korea which is celebrated as a mark of respect to elders. The festival is a time for feasting and happiness. Families visit their ancestral properties in hometowns and people offer newly harvested foods. Koreans hold memorial services at the grave sites of the elder people. After the memorial service, they have a special meal to celebrate and be thankful for each other.
In Africa, the harvest festivals have a lot of religious connotations. Dancing and singing are a special part of the festival. People who take part in dances wear traditional masks and outfits. Each dance sequence unfolds a unique story.
The Festival of Yams is a popular harvest festival. Yams are the most common food and are the first crops to be harvested.
This festival is celebrated with days of ceremonies and offerings to God and the ancestors. The offerings are later distributed among the village folk. This is their way of giving thanks to the spirit. The festival is usually held in the month of August, marking the end of rainy season.