Many forms of thanksgiving around the world
Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Thanksgiving is a time for gathering. It is a time for families, food and giving thanks for all we have. It is also a harvest festival, where the bounty of the Earth is represented in foliage colors of orange, red and gold. We even eat in fall colors, with the russet color of pumpkin pie, the golden hue of the roast turkey and the brilliant red of cranberries. Thanksgiving has been a part of American culture since the birth of America, and it is hard for us to imagine a more American holiday — other than the 4th of July.
But we are not the only ones to celebrate giving thanks. All around the world, cultures partake in their own versions of thanksgiving. Many of these "harvest thanksgivings" are more ancient than our own, and since we are a nation of many cultures, it is only right that we acknowledge how the rest of the world gives thanks.
Beginning in 1957, Canada has its thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. The tradition is similar to ours, with the roast turkey, cranberry sauce and a bunch of sleepy, overfed people lounging in the living room afterward.
Israel celebrates its own thanksgiving harvest festival called "Succoth". It is usually held in September and lasts for seven days. Think, one full week of overeating! Joking aside, this festival is less of a harvest festival and more of homage to the Jews that wandered in the wilderness en route to Canaan. The people construct a hut of sorts called the "Succoth." Whole families camp in these "succoths" and hold festivities with music and food.
India celebrates its harvest festival Jan.16. The festival is called "Tamilian Tirunal" and is celebrated with a huge community meal where freshly harvested grain is served. This day is part of a four-day festival called "Pongal," which symbolizes the veneration of the first fruit.
In Ghana, Thanksgiving is called the Homowo Festival. Now, this is the longest thanksgiving ever, which lasts from May to August. Think how sick of turkey we would be by then! The festival starts with the planting of crops and ends with the harvesting. Noise is banned during the month of June and people migrate to the homes of their fathers (who are probably glad that for once, the children are quiet). The word Homowo means "to jeer at hunger."
In China, the Harvest Moon is a celebration of thanksgiving. It is held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, during mid-autumn. This is one of the most traditional Chinese festivals, and holds as much importance to the Chinese as our Thanksgiving holds to us.
There is an interesting legend that says Chang Er flew to the moon, where she is still living, and if you look very carefully, you might see her dancing on the moon during this festival. Whole families get together when the full moon rises; they sit and eat moon cakes, staring at the moon while singing moon poems. It is also a festival for romance, where young lovers share moon cake and watch the moon together. Nobody gets sleepy from tryptophan.
Korea has a version of Thanksgiving called "Chusok." It usually is held in mid-August during the harvest season. Korean families thank their ancestors for providing them with rice and fruits.
The celebration starts out with families getting together to share rice cakes called "Songphyun." These cakes are made of beans, rice, sesame seeds and chestnuts. Afterward, the families visit the tombs of their ancestors to pay their respect, leaving offerings of rice and fruits. In the evenings, the children dance under the bright moon. Sometimes the adults do too if they've had enough to drink. Oh wait, that's my uncle who does that.
Anyway, no matter what Thanksgiving you celebrate, it's a time to reflect on all the good things in one's life, a time to honor the Earth for all the bounty that she bestows on us, and most of all, to give thanks for being surrounded by those we love. No matter what country, no matter what culture, no matter what date, we all have this day of thanks. Happy Turkey Day!
Angela Cail is a freshman in new media communications. The opinions expressed in her columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Cail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.