Ahh, Thanksgiving. Turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, rampant consumerism...
Thanksgiving as we know it is only celebrated in America, but many other countries have their own unique celebrations which are all meant to give thanks and celebrate the end of the season's harvest. Presumably, they all copied America because they thought our idea was so cool. Here are a few of the more famous festivals.
The Mid-Autumn Festival (China)The premise: Celebrate the harvest in by lighting lanterns and eating as many moon cakes (pictured) as possible. Traditionally, the cakes are filled with either lotus seed paste or date paste, but remember: this is China we're talking about, which means there are actually about 5 gazillion different mooncake recipes out there which vary from region to region.
Trung Thu (Vietnam)The premise: Highly similar to the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival, this Vietnamese harvest celebration has a tradition in which children light lanterns, and families burn fake money to send good luck to their ancestors.
The New Yam Festival (Nigeria)The premise: What else? Yams! While yams may be relegated to a side dish in American Thanksgiving, they take center stage in the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria's harvest festival, meant to celebrate the end of the rainy season and the beginning of a new season of work (hooray!).
St. Martin's Day (Basically all of Europe)The premise: St. Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier turned monk who lived during the fourth century, A.D. Reportedly he was a pretty stand-up guy. On one occasion, he even cut his cloak in half and gave half to a beggar who was dying of exposure in a snowstorm. Conveniently enough, that beggar turned out to be Jesus Christ taking the form of a man temporarily to check up on how the whole humanity experiment was going.
To celebrate St. Martin's generosity, many European countries have adopted St. Martin's Day as a national holiday, putting their own spins on the tradition: everything from eating a goose meal in Belgium, to lighting paper lanterns in Austria (pictured), to roasting figs and walnuts in Portugal.
Sukkot (Israel)The premise: Sukkot is all about lemons... okay, not lemons, but etrogs, which are a close cousin of lemons. During the seven days of the festival, families build small gazebos called sukkah, meant to remind them of ancient times when the Israelites roamed the desert for 40 years after being freed from the Egyptians.
Why etrogs, you ask? Well... uhh... they're delicious, so shut up!
Obzinky (Czech Republic)The premise: Teehee... Obzinky. Obzinky, Obzinky, Obzinky. Just saying it makes you smile. Another reason to smile is the delicious fruit pastries, called kolache, that are served up to celebrate the end of the harvest.
Lohri (Northern India)The premise: Lohri is the celebration of the winter solstice in the Indian states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttrakhand and Jammu. What better way to celebrate the day of the year that has the shortest amount of sunlight? Light up the night with a huge bonfire, of course!
La Fiesta de La Vendimia (Argentina)The premise: Wine. Lots and lots of wine. Each year, the Archbishop of Mendoza in Argentina sprinkles the season's first grapes with holy water, proffering the grapes as a "new vintage to God." Literally giving God the finest red wine they have to offer. The end of the celebration is marked by a beauty pageant featuring contestants from each of Argentina's respective provinces.
So basically, wine and beautiful women. Yeah, Argentina does harvest festivals right.
Canadian Thanksgiving! (Three guesses, dummy...)The premise: Yep, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving too! Theirs has nothing to do with pilgrims or the Mayflower or any of that jazz, but it's Thanksgiving nonetheless. Celebrated on the second Monday of October instead of the third Thursday of November, Canadian ThanksgivingTM features a bountiful feast with a decadent meat pie called a tourtière as the meal's centerpiece.
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