Fall Harvest Festivals Around the World

Katie Jones, Reporter

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A fall gathering of family and food, but it’s not called Thanksgiving?  

As the season changes, countries around the world celebrate fall holidays similar to Thanksgiving in their own unique ways. Though the motivation behind the holidays has a common theme, each has its own traditions. In Liberia and Grenada, Thanksgiving was created because of something relating to Americans. In contrast, other Asian countries and Germany have their own reasons for celebrating a fall harvest.

United States

The origins of Thanksgiving date all the way back to 1621, when the pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest. Though Thanksgiving traditions have been around since 1621, it was not until later that it became a national holiday. As stated on History.com, “it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.” Now in the 21st century, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and reconnect with family while having a feast of turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, and what other else families want to make it their own. Americans typically enjoy the day by kicking back and watching football.

Turkey along with other vegetables and fruit are part of the American Thanksgiving tradition. Americans most commonly eat turkey as their main course. (Ruocaled/CC BY 2.0)

Liberia

The only African culture that celebrates Thanksgiving is Liberia. Modernnotion.com unveils the reasons for their celebrations. After slaves from the United States were freed in 1847, many slaves fled to Liberia, continuing similar American Thanksgiving traditions. Similar to the American’s, Liberian’s still eat potatoes and green bean casseroles, but instead of a turkey their protein comes from the roasted chicken. As Liberia adds in their own chicken flare, so does their motivation behind celebrating. As they end their night out on the town, they keep in mind the true meaning of their freedom.

Grenada

Grenada is unique in the reason for celebrating Thanksgiving. Anydayguide.com says that the country doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because of a fall harvest, but because of the “restoration of political stability in the country.” The government was overthrown by Maurice Bishop who was then executed by the army. His execution led to an unstable government. During this time, there were medical students studying in Grenada, and the United States military invaded. The invasion starting on October 25, 1983 helped in forming a now stable government. Now, the holiday is commemorated on October 25 to thank the United States.

China

The mid-autumn holiday similar to Thanksgiving is held on the fifteenth day during the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Though the harvest festival is around the same time of year as Thanksgiving in the US, the traditions differ drastically. Hershey High School junior, Gareth Cockroft went on an exchange program to northwest China during the 2016-2017 school year. Cockroft said that the meal varies amongst each family, but there is a constant of mooncake.

“The main thing that we ate is called mooncake. They’re sweet, there are a bunch of different flavors, some of them are really bad some of them are really good,” said Cockroft.

In America carved pumpkins are lit up, in China lanterns are traditionally lit up. Cockroft explains that they hang up lanterns, with each one having a different significant meaning depending on the character that is written on them.

The mooncake is a traditional Chinese treat that is most commonly eaten during their fall festival. The mooncakes come in a variety of flavors and sizes. (Chupacabra Viranesque/CC BY 2.0)

Vietnam

Similar to China, the festival revolves around family, but the focus falls on the children. According to adoptvietnam.org, “It is said that originally, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival came about as a way for parents to make up for lost time with their children after harvest season.” The festival is celebrated by parading the streets, singing, and dancing. Adoptvietnam.org compares the holiday to a combination between Thanksgiving and Halloween in the United States.

Because Vietnam and China are both located in Asia, many traditions carry over. Similar to China, lanterns get lit. Pongalfestival.org says, “some of the popular shapes include fishes, stars, butterflies and a lantern that spins when a candle is inserted, representing the earth circling the sun.” Traditions are similar, as is the food. Pongalfestival.org emphasises that mooncakes are the main food consumed. The mooncakes are made of seeds, ground beans, orange peels, and a yoke to represent the moon in the middle.

The dragon lantern pictured above is among one of the more extravagant lanterns. The lanterns are original with different shapes and colors. (jev55/CC BY 2.0)

Food, style, and family traditions all take their own spin on kicking off fall throughout the world.