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November 2014

Thanksgiving Around the World

Discover how Thanksgiving is celebrated around the world!

While Thanksgiving is mostly associated as an American holiday, similar harvest-related, thanks-promoting festivals are celebrated around the world. It all dates back to the Ancient Greeks, when autumn heralded harvest celebrations where gods from Demeter and Ceres, both the agricultural sort, were worshipped. It was then that the cornucopia, otherwise known as the "horn of plenty", was first introduced. It is now a prominent symbol of bountifulness in modern Thanksgiving tradition. Today we’ll take a look at some Thanksgiving festivals celebrated outside of the United States.


“Thanksgiving Day” in the Caribbean island of Grenada occurs on October 25. The holiday celebrates the anniversary of the day the United States led an invasion of the island in 1983 after the West Indian nation’s prime minister was deposed and executed. The Americans are credited with rescuing the inhabitants of Grenada from a communist takeover, restoring their government. Grenadians expressed their thanks to the U.S. forces with a surprise Thanksgiving feast despite being unfamiliar with many of the food items.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Thanksgiving is celebrated much like in America, commemorating the years when the Pilgrims, many of the same who migrated to Plymouth Plantation in the United States, settled in the city of Leiden. The hospitality they received on their way to the New World is commemorated with Thanksgiving celebrations in the Netherlands today. The ceremony is held at the Pieterskerk, a 900-year-old Gothic church where a Pilgrim leader by the name of John Robinson was buried. The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum chronicles the 11 years (1609-1620) that the Pilgrims remained here. Traditional Thanksgiving cuisine can be attained at numerous American institutions in the city. The cultural connection continued to America, where many believe the Pilgrims brought over the Dutch influence as well, from the ladder-back chair to, quite possibly, Thanksgiving itself.

Norfolk Island

American whaling ships visiting Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, brought over the custom of Thanksgiving. It is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November. Expect cooked turkey and church services. With the size of a little over 13 square miles and not much more than 2,000 residents, the people here have been celebrating Thanksgiving since it was introduced in the mid-1890s. The American credited for importing the holiday was Isaac Robinson, a trader who would become the island’s "first United States consul". Locals celebrate by sharing produce to support the local All Saints Church while singing traditional American hymns and feasting on a meal of pork, chicken, bananas (often mashed), and pumpkin pie. Turkey, as one can imagine, is hard to come by in the middle of the South Pacific.


The West African nation of Liberia, one founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, has celebrated Thanksgiving officially since the early 1880s. It is, in fact, the only other country other than American that officially celebrates the holiday. Observed on the first Thursday of November, Liberians typically attend Christian church services, bringing with them the fresh produce of the harvest. A great feast is a highlight, of course, as well as concerts and dancing. Traditional food items include roasted chicken, mashed cassavas, and green beans served in a casserole. Top all that off with cayenne pepper for some spice and one feels particularly festive.

Do you celebrate a holiday of thanks? What are your traditions? Let us know on Facebook and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!

Foto: © Maya Kruchancova