Giving Thanks Around the World

Thanksgiving is here! Let’s take a look at the meaning behind this holiday in the US, and what its traditions have in common with celebrations in other parts of the world. And learn to say “thank you” in different languages!

Harvest Celebrations

basket with food itemsThe first Thanksgivings celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians were a celebration of a good harvest.

Harvest celebrations are held in every part of the world, throughout the year. For example, Vietnam celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival, and Israel celebrates the festival of Sukkot. (Check out our post for fun and easy kids crafts that celebrate these harvest celebrations and more.)

Giving Thanks

hands holding "give thanks"Thanksgiving is an opportunity to pause our hectic schedules, and appreciate all that we have to be grateful for.

In the US, we generally express our gratitude with the words “thank you,” with meaningful gifts, and with gestures like hugs and handshakes.

Every language has its own way of saying the words “thank you,” as shown in this colorful thank you poster with 40 different languages (e.g., Gracias, Danke, Salamat, Obrigado, Hvala, Paldies, Diolch, Tack, Gijtto, Falemindert, Asante, Merci).  Each culture has its own unique set of norms for showing gratitude, as well. In India, for example, people only actually say “thank you” to strangers, not loved ones.  And, in the Philippines, the act of giving is given more importance than the actual item being given.

Sharing a Meal with Loved Ones

people sharing a holiday mealThanksgiving’s “main event” is the meal. While the stuffed turkey is the star of the show, just as important are the sides of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and countless others.

The first Thanksgiving menu in 1621 likely included seafood, like mussels and lobster, and a dish cooked inside a hollowed-out pumpkin.

There are a variety of traditional dishes enjoyed at gatherings in the winter months. In Mexico, tamales are a popular dish. In Japan, people dine on hot Udon soup. Speckknödel (dumplings) is traditional in Germany. See our post for more winter holiday dishes, with links to recipes.

What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday? Comment below and share your unique traditions!

“Happy Thanksgiving” by Faith Goble via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“A holiday feast with my dearest friends, Masako and Satch Takayasu” by Ron Frazier via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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