November 2022

Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World


Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and has been celebrated at harvest time since the 1600s. In the centuries that have followed, traditions have developed—mostly around the Thanksgiving meal—like cooking a turkey, making stuffing, eating pie. You may gather with family and friends to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then switch over football games. Recently, holiday shopping has crept into Thanksgiving and many stores open late in the day on Thanksgiving so people can get the latest deals.

But what about some non-traditional ways to celebrate the holiday? In my Italian-American family, our Thanksgiving meal always began with antipasto and manicotti. Here are some more ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that don’t include turkeys, pies, or parades!

  • Volunteer your time at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Run a Turkey Trot 5K race! Bonus points if you deck yourself out in Thanksgiving gear.
  • Skip the football and tune into the National Dog Show (right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast).
  • host a TV marathon and find all your favorite Thanksgiving episodes (Friends has 9 great ones!).
  • Indulge in something store bought! Give yourself a break in the kitchen and unbox some mashed potatoes, stuffing, or other treat.
  • Make a childhood favorite. Don’t love stuffing? Skip it and make macaroni and cheese!

Another idea is to go abroad! The United States isn’t the only country to celebrate Thanksgiving. Let’s look at some traditions from around the world.

  • Canada - Canadian Thanksgiving has been around since the 1500s and is celebrated on the second Monday in October. The rest of the tradition may look pretty familiar to Americans -- think turkeys and football!
  • Germany - Germans celebrate Erntedankfest on the first Sunday of October and bring harvest grains to church.
  • Liberia - After freed slaves established Liberia in the 1820s, they brought many American Thanksgiving traditions with them. These have endured to present-day, although the menu is different: Liberians enjoy chicken and cassavas!
  • Japan - Japan’s Kinro Kansha no Hi has been celebrated on November 23 since the mid-1800s. Instead of feasting, the Japanese celebrate hard work and community involvement.
  • The Netherlands - many Pilgrims came to the United States from Leiden, a Dutch city. On the fourth Thursday in November, Leiden commemorates this with church services.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Tell us at #inspiresocialstudies

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