Not every country joins the good ol' U.S. of A. in celebrating Thanksgiving. Many other countries do, too. Even though the Pilgrims never landed on any of their rocks, among others are Canada, China, Germany and the tiny island nation of Grenada. To include others would take more space than this periodical allocates.
Canada, our neighbor to the north, actually celebrated Thanksgiving long before the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock. Their first Thanksgiving was reportedly held in 1578 – 42 years before the Mayflower arrived. When the English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew landed in Newfoundland, he organized the celebration to give thanks for a successful voyage across the dangerous and unpredictable Atlantic. Today, our northern neighbors celebrate their day of thanks every year on the third Monday in October. Since it's considered to be an optional holiday, workers in many parts of the country automatically get the day off.
The annual date of China's celebration is a bit mind-boggling. That's because it's similar to a moon-worshiping festival. You see, its day of thanks occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That's when the moon's at its brightest and roundest. Instead of enjoying the autumn staple, pumpkin pie, as we do, their favorite dessert is moon-cake. This is a baked concoction filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and loaded with duck egg yolks. It's all done to symbolize the moon. This isn't something new to them. They've been celebrating that way for more than 2,500 years. Back then, the ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon followed the changing of the seasons each year as well as the raising of food crops and agriculture production. Therefore, to express their thanks to the earth's ever present lunar satellite and celebrate their harvest, too, they offered the moon a sacrifice on autumn days. Today, instead of offering a sacrifice, the Chinese people view the full moon from an ancient bridge at a place called Taoranting Park in Beijing.
Germany has an annual harvest festival known as Erntedankfest. It's typically held on the first Sunday in October. The German festivities have less in common with American tradition than harvest celebrations in many other countries. Their day of thanks, sponsored mostly by Protestant and Catholic churches, are marked by parades, music and dancing. They even include fireworks. While most American meals are built around the ol' gobbler, the Germans are inclined to use chickens, roosters, hens or geese.
Thanks to the good ol' U.S. Of A., the latest country to start celebrating Thanksgiving is the island nation of Grenada. Though considerably different from our turkey day celebration, it is nonetheless tied to us. With a military coup eventually executing Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. a popular leader, political turmoil hit a peak and caused a power vacuum that left the country in chaos during the Cold War. Concern about Cuba's communistic influence and the welfare of some 800 American medical students enrolled at the island's university prompted President Ronald Reagan's invasion on October 25, 1983. Though his military action was met with widespread global criticism, many Grenadians were grateful. Having learned of the American tradition of Thanksgiving from students and troops, the Grenadians put together Thanksgiving feasts for both the students and troops across the island. Even though the national holiday of gratitude and remembrance is celebrated primarily in the more urban areas. Oct. 25 was nevertheless named Thanksgiving day on the entire island.
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