7 Ways Other Cultures Give Thanks

In the United States, we give thanks by gathering with family and friends for a feast, enjoying each other’s company and indulging in some other annual family traditions. Some people nestle in for an afternoon of watching football afterward, while others make out their Black Friday Shopping lists.

What do people in other countries do? While it’s true that Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, maybe you didn’t know that different cultures around the globe also have holidays for giving thanks. Whether you’re spending this Thanksgiving in another nation or indulging your interest in international celebrations, here’s what seven other countries do to celebrate the season of thanks.

1. Mexico

Are you spending Thanksgiving south of the border? If so, you’ll delight in spicy twists to traditional celebrations. While some Mexican parties feature dishes like turkey enchiladas, chorizo plays a starring role, even when paired with pumpkin in a soup. You’ll also see tons of poblano and chipotle peppers on the holiday table.

It can feel a little lonely spending your first holiday abroad. Why not have a get-together with local friends and try some new menu items? You may invent a sizzling new twist on the traditional cranberry sauce by adding a bit of chorizo!

2. China

If you find yourself in China to master the finer points of the language or teach it to others, Thanksgiving is a great time to get acclimated. Some people say that the Chinese are the only people other than Americans who honor Thanksgiving the same way. Most people think of it as a day to throw a Western-style feast, so you won’t feel like a stranger for long — although the Chinese celebration is older and occurs earlier in the fall.

You might have a tough time finding a turkey during your Mandarin internship excursion, though, so exercise flexibility. Try some traditional moon cake during this Chinese holiday!

3. Germany

You might think of Octoberfest when you think of Germany, but this festival takes place at the beginning of autumn despite the name. However, on the first Sunday in October, German people celebrate Erntedankfest, an ancient tradition. Churches put on the festivities, and families typically whip up a goose or a chicken instead of a turkey. They also take part in parades and fireworks displays.

4. Brazil

Are you planning to be in Brazil for the holidays? While Brazilians do not celebrate Thanksgiving the way Americans do, the thriving expat community keeps the celebration alive. Chances are, you can find a gathering to make you feel less homesick.

Brazilians generally serve turkey at Christmas, so you’ll get your fill of the bird if you plan to stay awhile. Did you know that the word for turkey in Portuguese is peru?

5. Liberia

The tiny West African nation of Liberia puts on a Thanksgiving similar to the American celebration. They elevate the cornucopia to new heights by piling fruits in baskets and taking them to churches where they auction the goods. After a big feast, the residents of the country continue the festivities with concerts and dancing.

6. Canada

Our neighbors to the north celebrate in much the same way that Americans do. Indeed, the Canadian celebration is older than the U.S. version. While residents of the nation enjoy many of the same foods we do at their feasts, they don’t always get a day off work. The holiday is not public in every province.

7. The Netherlands

Many of the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock came from Holland originally, so it’s not surprising that they brought their traditions over on the boat. Every year, the locals who remain in the old country gather at a Gothic church called the Pieterskerk to honor the early settlers who left Leiden.

Giving Thanks Around the World

Whether you’re spending this Thanksgiving Day abroad or you want to broaden your knowledge of international celebrations, it’s entertaining to learn how other cultures celebrate giving thanks. Why not add a globetrotting flair to your festivities this year by incorporating another cultural tradition?


Alyssa Abel is an education blogger with a special interest in study abroad, language learning and cultural education. Read more of her work for students and educators on her blog, Syllabusy, connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.