As the temperatures dip we are gleefully reminded that Halloween, Christmas and New Years celebrations are all quickly approaching, as well as Thanksgiving. We commonly associate Thanksgiving as quintessentially American, but did you know that there are many countries that celebrate this harvest focused occasion? Similar celebrations take place all around the world from Canada to Switzerland and even Japan. Join us as we explore Thanksgiving around the globe.
Whilst American Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year, in Canada they celebrate a very similar Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. This is because the Canadian Thanksgiving is closely linked to the harvest festival we are more familiar with in the UK. The main difference between these two days is the timing. Canada is so much farther north, their harvest season begins much earlier than it does in the USA. Since Thanksgiving is such a food-centric holiday, it makes sense to celebrate in Canada when fresh produce is available.
Many of the same foods are prepared in both Canadian and American Thanksgiving celebrations, including turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and the essential pumpkin pie.
Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Throughout Europe the celebration of Thanksgiving is closely linked to the autumn harvest which is why the celebration occurs around the time of the main harvest around early October. In German-speaking countries, this event is called Erntedankfest. Unlike the North American festivities, in rural Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, Erntedankfest is a public celebration with music, dancing, fireworks, and food. In some places, churches are decorated with autumn crops and during the day, people participate in parades. These celebrations often begin with a church service for both the larger and smaller cities. After the service, people gather for a parade and the presentation of the ‘harvest crown’ to a designated ‘Harvest Queen’. Community members distribute leftover or surplus food to those in need.
Celebrated annually on the 23rd of November, Japan holds a harvest ceremony rooted in the ancient Shinto rice harvest. The origin of Japan’s Thanksgiving holiday dates back to the seventh century. Known today as ‘Labor Thanksgiving Day’, the celebration has lost some of its original meaning and is regarded now as an occasion for reflecting on issues that impact the community, such as the environment and human rights.
Here in the UK we celebrate a festival similar to Erntedankfest. During pre-Christian times in Britain, the Saxons would offer the first sheaf of cereals to fertility gods then come together and celebrate the harvest with a supper. Many traditions remained even though Christianity arrived in Britain so the present-day Harvest Festival is celebrated even by churches.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for your Thanksgiving celebrations look no further than our Patchwork Toy, Timothy Turkey. Our collection of colourful patchwork toys have been created from the offcuts and recycled fabrics used in our studio including many of the fabrics from our own design collections.
No matter where you are in the world we hope you enjoy a well deserved season of celebrating with friends, family and food. If you are planning on hosting your own gathering, see our blog post: How to Dress Your Table.