Thanksgiving Around The World

Wilson College’s highly anticipated annual Thanksgiving Dinner will be held on Thursday, November 20, 2014. It is a special time in which students engage in a family-style meal with their friends and enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Sitting around those tables will also be a host of international students who come from different countries with their own unique celebrations equivalent to Thanksgiving.

Some of these include the Korean holiday of Chuseok, Canada’s aptly titled Thanksgiving Day, and the Chinese Dōngzhì Festival.

While none are celebrated in November, it is interesting to note that they all happen during the end of the year. Chuseok usually falls in September, Canadian Thanksgiving Day is the second Monday of October, and the Dōngzhì Festival occurs around the 22nd of December.

The Korean holiday of Chuseok, originally called Hangawi, has been celebrated for over 2000 years and takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. It is an autumn harvest festival that is marked by families leaving the big cities to return to their hometowns to pay respect to their ancestors.

There is an ancient memorial rite, called charye, that takes place on the morning of Chuseok. Special foods are eaten and folk games are played during the holiday. Chuseok itself, plus the days before and after it, are statutory holidays in South Korea.

Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, or as the French-Canadians say “L’Action de grâce,” was started in 1957 when the parliament of Canada proclaimed, “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”

However, this is not the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada, as it can be traced back to 1578. Dates varied between May and June before moving to late October and early November in the 1890s, until officially declared the second Monday in October in 1957. Celebrated much like Thanksgiving is in America, its official roots stem from Martin Frobisher and his party of settlers wanting to give thanks to God for guidance across treacherous seas to Canadian shores.

The Dōngzhì, or the Winter Solstice Festival, of China occurs during the Dōngzhì solar term and its origins can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. The phrase “solar term” refers to a time when the sun is in a specific position and the traditional East Asian calendar divides the year into twenty-four of them.

Dōngzhì is the 22nd solar term of the year, which is the middle of the season for the Chinese. Usually it begins on the twenty-first or twenty-second of December and goes until the first of January. The festival is celebrated on the first night. Families come together in a reunion over the long night and eat traditional foods that are meant to symbolize family unity and prosperity.

All around the world, Thanksgiving is celebrated in one way or another. The origins and names may be different but the meaning is the same. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and reunite with family and toast to a prosperous coming year.

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