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Thanksgiving is just one of these awesome feasts around the world

In just a few days I will be lucky enough to be gathered around a table with my family, that is covered with mash potatoes, turkey, cranberry mold, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more. It is a tradition I am very keen on celebrating because, for me, there’s nothing better than family and food.

So I started to wonder if there are any “thanksgiving-like” holidays celebrated in other countries. The languages and cultures may be different, but it turns out that family and food are pretty much common ground from country to country.

Ghana celebrates Homowo, a yam festival.

The Ga people of Ghana’s capital, Accra, celebrate this holiday in the name of hunger...but really. A food festival to celebrate a lack of food doesn’t make much sense. Except it does when it means remembering a time of famine in their history, and celebrating their ancestors’ resilience and survival.

Homowo translates to “hooted at hunger,” which is what the Ga people did when they faced a difficult harvest season. This is an awesome message of perseverance and how strength should be commemorated. After the yams are dug up and blessed, the community shares a giant feast. There’s singing, dancing, drum-playing, and food. Now that sounds good to me.

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

China feasts during the Mid-Autumn Moon.

Once again, family and feasting is the theme. The Chinese celebrate the end of harvest season on the 15th day of the eighth lunar moon (yeah, that’s confusing but there’s food so stay with me). Legend has it that the moon shines brightest on this day and inspires friendship and romance. Families gather to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and share the signature food of the day: mooncake, a flaky pastry with sweet filling on the inside.

Flickr: D Huw Richardson

Liberia has a Thanksgiving of their own.

When slaves were freed in the U.S., some traveled to Africa and founded Liberia in the 19th century. Thanksgiving was one tradition they brought with them from America and named the first Thursday of November their day to give thanks for freedom. While I’ll be stuffing my face with mashed potatoes in the US, Liberians will eat mashed cassavas instead.

Flickr: Nick Taylor

Judaism celebrates the harvest in a big way.

There are three holidays in the Jewish tradition that have historical and agricultural significance. While Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, it also marks the start of the harvest season. Shavuot celebrates the first foods being harvested and Sukkot signifies the end of harvest season. During Sukkot, meals are traditionally shared outside the home in makeshift huts, as a symbol of the temporary dwellings that Israelites used during their journey through the desert.

Flickr: Jeremy Price

Korea’s Chuseok puts their own spin on food and family.

Korea’s Chuseok is similar to Thanksgiving. Families gather together to share food, stories, and pay respects to their ancestors. And when I say food, I mean feast. Their table is filled with foods from the fresh harvest. A traditional dish to make is Songpyeon. It’s made by kneading rice into little cakes and filling them with red beans, chestnuts, and more.

Chuseok goes beyond the home and is celebrated with organized events. This means dancing, wrestling, and awesome traditional costumes. So, if you’re planning a trip to Korea in late September and early October, try and find a way to be a part of this celebration.

Flickr: Republic of Korea

Unfortunately, while I may get to celebrate my Thanksgiving with food on the table, there are so many families around the world who are suffering of hunger. While Accra may be plentiful in yams now, there was a time where that wasn’t the case, but they survived. The hungry and starving people in the world have the resilience to survive and they will, but that doesn’t mean that has to be the case. There is plenty of food in the world for everyone to have a Thanksgiving meal, but accessibility and distribution is the problem. This is one of the issues we’ll be tackling as Global Citizens leading up to the next Festival, so stay tuned because there are things that can be done to make sure no one goes hungry.


Alex Vinci