Thanksgiving Goes International

Thanksgiving celebrates the original Thanksgiving feast, at which pilgrims and Native Americans dined together for three days to give thanks to God for guiding them to the New World and giving them such a successful harvest. As such, understandably, Thanksgiving is primarily a North American custom.

But it turns out that while Thanksgiving commemorates a North American historical occurrence, it is actually celebrated in many different places   world wide!

Although also North American, Canada celebrates a Thanksgiving Day, or ‘Jour de l’Action de grâce’, which takes place on the second Monday of October, rather than the fourth Thursday in November. The Canadian Thanksgiving remains pretty much identical to the US version; it marks the end of a successful harvest and involves turkey and cornucopias. A fun fact about Canadian Thanksgiving though is that even though the actual holiday falls on a Monday, the dinner is eaten on any day of the preceding weekend, although Sunday is most common.

A Thanksgiving feast is also observed in the West Indian island nation of Grenada. Although the holidays share the same name and the same general placement on the calendar, the two are, unsurprisingly, unconnected. Grenada’s Thanksgiving actually marks the United States-led invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, in 1983. I don’t know much about the politics of Grenada (population 100,000), but the Invasion of Grenada was led to restore constitutional government after a military coup for years previous. The Invasion seems to be a point of debate, supported by the US and parts of Grenada, but condemned by the United Kingdom, Canada and the UN. Either way, the event is now marked by a Thanksgiving celebration on October 25th.

The Netherlands also celebrate Thanksgiving, as many of the pilgrims who travelled to Plymouth Plantation, the site of the original United States Thanksgiving feast, came from the Dutch city of Leiden.

But in my opinion, the most interesting Thanksgiving celebration takes place in West Africa, in the country of Liberia. If you’re initial reaction to a Thanksgiving feast in Liberia is confusion, you’re not alone. It is in fact linked with the North American Thanksgiving and occurs every year on the first Thursday of November. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the US, so they have maintained many ties with American culture, including, apparently, a Thanksgiving feast. The Liberian Thanksgiving menu consists of roast chicken, green bean casserole, mashed cassavas and a whole lot of cayenne pepper. I’ll stick to turkey and sweet potato, but to each his own. 🙂

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One thought on “Thanksgiving Goes International

  1. A fascinating history lesson. I remember celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving when I lived in Montreal in my early 20’s ~ it seemed strange to have a big feast on Monday and go back to work on Tuesday. Now I know I should have been celebrating on Sunday. C’est la vie!

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