Thanksgiving doesn’t just mean turkey, pilgrims and football like it does to many on the popular American holiday. The idea of bursting cornucopias and celebrating the bounty of Mother Nature transcends borders and cultures. Although they spring from the same ideas, festivals around the world all bring to the table unique traditions and stories that inspired the merrymaking. Here are some global celebrations, each with their own way of giving thanks!
Malaysia – The Kadazan Festival
Malaysians believe that without rice there is no life and The Kadazan Festival, held in May, worships this staple of their culture. They thank the creator for his generosity in allowing life on Earth to continue. As the story goes, in the time of creation the creator and his wife sacrificed their only daughter in order to prepare for the people that would soon populate the earth. They buried parts of her across the land and her body was the seed of the rice paddy. They believe the grain still holds the spirit of life and creation. There is even myth that her voice will cry out from the rice if it is mistreated. A rather dark origin to such a bright festival filled with rice wine, buffalo races and agricultural shows.
Korea – Chu Suk Harvest Festival
Chu Suk is the Korean harvest festival and like any good festival does, it focuses on food and merrymaking but also respect and commemoration of their elders and ancestral roots. Families hold memorials at grave sites and visit areas where their family originated. Songp’yon, crescent-shaped rice cakes stuffed with sesame seeds, chestnut paste or beans, along with freshly harvested foods are typical of the holiday and activities include archery and musical competitions.
Africa – Festival of the Yams
In Africa, The Festival of Yams is a popular harvest festival. It is usually held in August at the end of rainy season and last for days. Yam is the first good to be harvested and the evening prior to the festival all old yams from the previous season must be eaten or discarded. It is tradition that to kick off the ceremony the oldest man in the community eat the first yam and then days of joyous dance and festivities ensues.
The United Kingdom – Harvest Festival
The United Kingdom has Harvest Festival, held in September and although it is not a national holiday, it is still widely celebrated. At the beginning of harvest, the first sheaf of corn was offered to the god of fertility in order to ensure a good harvest. Then the end of harvest and last sheaf of corn was marked by an animal sacrifice, usually a hare. This last sheaf was believed to hold the spirit and began the tradition of making corn dolls to symbolize the Goddess of Grain.
Brazil – Coffee Festival
Another delicious festival celebrates one of the world’s most popular beverages. Brazil holds the annual Coffee Festival, or the Festival Vale do Cafe in the June/July. The festivities take place in the so-called valley of coffee, which sounds like a wonderfully beautiful and caffeinated place. It holds the majority of Brazil’s coffee plantations, producing what is now one of the country’s top exports. The whole business started with a bouquet of flowers. In the early 1700s, French Guiana held a monopoly on coffee beans but a Brazilian military man charmed the governor’s wife into smuggling him a sample safely disguised in bouquet.
Think on that while you’re laying in the haze of a turkey coma! What’s your favorite way of giving thanks?