Here in the United States we generally think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but there’s actually a long tradition of harvest-time celebrations and thanksgiving celebrations around the world. The concept behind the American Thanksgiving celebration is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India and Chusok in Korea and many other global festivities!
The differences in the festivals range from date, rituals and customs but the reason behind it remain the same, it is a celebration to thank God for a fruitful harvest.
- The Chinese celebrate an August Moon festival that falls on the 15th day of 8th lunar month of their calendar. The Chinese believe that the moon is roundest and brightest on this day. Unlike the famous pumpkin pie, the Chinese delicacies consist of round yellow moon-cake which friends and relatives give to convey their regard to each other.
- In Rome, the Roman harvest festival known as Cerelia was celebrated in the honor of the deity Ceres, the Goddess of Corn. At their October festival music, parades and sports extended the joy of the ceremony.
- Every autumn, the ancient Greeks enjoyed a three-day festival to honor Demeter, the goddess of corn and grains.
- In Korea the celebration falls on 15th of August, it is known as Chu-Sok which means “fall evening.”. It begins on 14th night and continues for three days. Koreans make a dish called ‘Songpyon’ which is unique for that occasion consisting of rice, beans, sesame seeds and chestnuts. Before having the food, the family gathers beneath the moonlight, in remembrance of their ancestors.
- In the Jewish culture, families also celebrate a harvest festival known as Sukkot. This festival has been celebrated for 3,000 years by building a hut of branches called a Sukkot. Jewish families then eat their meals beneath the Sukkot under the night sky for eight days.
- The ancient Egyptians participated in a harvest festival in honor of Min, the god of vegetation and fertility.
- In the British Isles the major harvest festival is called Lammas Day, named for the Old English words for “loaf” and “mass.” On Lammas Day, everyone would come to church with a loaf of bread made from the first wheat harvest. The church would bless the bread, in thanks for that year’s harvest.