Thanksgiving Around the World

Harvest Festivals, like American Thanksgiving, have been held as long as people have been growing and gathering their own food. Just as the Pilgrims brought the English fall festival of Harvest Home to America, there are many cultures around the world that give thanks for a good harvest.

Homowo Festival (Ghana)
In Ghana, there is a 3-day festival celebrating the Yam harvest called Homowo. During Homowo, people wear a brightly colored costume, similar to a toga, made of kente cloth. There is a cleansing ceremony to mark the start of this festival. This ceremony honors those family members who have died and allows farmers to thank the gods who have ensured a bountiful harvest. Known as a special gift from the gods, all twins and triplets are honored during this ceremony.

Since yams are the most important crop in Ghana, during Homowo, they are treated in a very special way. After being unearthed, they are carried to the village and blessed by the chief. The yams are then prepared in various ways to be eaten. The most popular yam dish during the festival is mashed yams with hard boiled egg. Another popular dish is Kpekpele, made from corn meal and palm oil.

Harvest Moon Festival (China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam)
On August 15th of every year, the harvesting of rice and wheat crops is honored in the celebration of the Harvest Moon Festival. This festival is also said to be the birthday of the woman who flew to the moon. Her name was Chang-O. Children are told that she can be seen when the moon is full for during the festival, the moon is at its brightest. During the Harvest Moon festival, mooncakes are eaten and traditionally given as gifts. This tradition goes back to a time when China was under the rule of the Mongolians, in 1368. The Chinese were planning a revolution and sent secret messages in mooncakes to their fellow revolutionaries. Fortunately for them, Mongolians did not eat mooncakes. For the Chinese, the full moon is a symbol of harmony, abundance and luck. Families will gather to view this full moon. There are also puppet shows and a lantern procession in which children take part.

Chu Suk (Korea)
The Koreans celebrate Chu Suk on August 15th each year, sharing the same date as the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival. Chu Suk begins by holding a memorial service for ancestors and leaving offerings of fruit and rice at their tombs.

Special rice cakes called "Songphyun"- a blend of sesame seeds, chestnuts, beans, and rice - are served at the start of the family feast.

Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae is a ceremony that takes place the eve of Chu Suk. For this ceremony, women wear they best hanbok, make a circle, and sing and dance.

Chu Suk is a family celebration when thanks is given for all their blessings.

Trung-Thu (Vietnam)
Also known as the Children’s Festival, Têt-Trung-Thu is celebrated on August 15th during the time of year when the moon is brighter and whiter. This festival is a time when parents can show their love for their children making them the center of the holiday.

Special bamboo lanterns are sold in Vietnamese markets during this festival. The lanterns are carried by children in a parade that promotes success in school. Their parents buy the lanterns, and sometimes masks, so that they can be in the procession.

Holi (India)
Holi takes place in early March every year, the day after the first full moon. Grains from the harvest are thrown into the flames of bonfires. These bonfires are lit to banish the cold winter. Holi, as one of India’s most colorful festivals, marks the end of spring.

This eagerly awaited celebration is one of hope and joy. People run through the streets tossing colored powder and water at each other. During Holi, not only is there plenty of color throwing, there is also much prayer, fasting and feasting. Everyone joins in to dance to the rhythmic drums. Older people like to give out sweets and money in an exchange of greetings.