Thanksgiving, one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States, is basically a harvest festival.
Language Connections would like to share 5 other international harvest festivals.
CH’USOK – Korea
The Harvest Moon Festival, Ch’usok, is one of Korea’s most popular holidays. Held in September or October, it is a celebration of the fall harvest and a time to honor one’s ancestors. The festival begins with a ceremonial offering of food and wine to the ancestors, followed by a feast of traditional foods such as sweet rice cakes.
Athletic events, including Korean wrestling matches, are common as are dance performances. The circle dance, or Ganggangsuwollae, tells the story of how, in 1592, Korean women dressed up as men and danced in a circle to fool the Japanese invaders into thinking that the Korean force was larger in number.
THAI PONGAL – India
Thai Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival celebrated primarily in southern India, in the state of Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka. The festival usually takes place in January in accordance with the Tamil calendar and the harvest season, and lasts for several days. It is a time to give thanks to the sun and rain for a bountiful harvest.
The word pongal literally means “to boil over.” During the second day, rice, milk and sugar are boiled together in a new clay pot. When the pot boils over, everyone shouts “Ponggalo Ponggal!” to usher in prosperity. On the third day, a tribute is paid to cows and bulls by decorating them and giving them special treats.
YAM FESTIVAL – Ghana & Nigeria
The Yam Festival is a major holiday in Ghana (where it is called Homowo) and Nigeria (where it is known as Iriji). It is a time to give thanks to the spirits of the earth and sky for the yam harvest. Yams are the most important crop in the region and the first to be harvested. The festival is held at the end of the rainy season, usually August or September, when the yams are ripe.
The day of the festival only dishes of yam are served, symbolizing the abundance of the crop. Traditionally, the eating of the first yam is ceremoniously performed by the eldest male, or the community leader. A variety of festivities mark this event, including regional folk dances, masquerades, and parades.
THANKSGIVING – Canada
The first Canadian Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated by Canadian settlers in 1578, when explorer Martin Frobisher gave thanks for a safe journey to Newfoundland and Labrador. This actually predated the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving holiday by 43 years! Thanksgiving in Canada is now held on the second Monday in October.
Canadian Thanksgiving is held earlier than its American equivalent because Canada, being farther north, has an earlier harvest season. Thanksgiving feasts are similar to food served in the United States, as are many of the accompanying traditions.
CELEBRATION OF BREAD – England
The English harvest festival, Lammas, was originally celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season. Also known as the Celebration of Bread, farmers made bread for Communion from new wheat to give thanks for the harvest. Churches were decorated with vegetables, fruits, and flowers in intricate designs. The end of the harvest was celebrated with a big meal known as the Harvest Supper.
Although the custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, it was revived in 1843 by a vicar in Cornwall, England. Today it is celebrated at the end of the harvest season, and a Harvest Supper is held the night before. Flowers, fruits and vegetables still dominate church displays.
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