Every year on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans do a funny thing. They prepare a spread of indulgent foods, dress up in their finest autumnal attire, watch football and fall asleep immediately after. This routine marks a popular holiday in America called Thanksgiving. It commemorates the harvest of 1621 when English Pilgrims “invited” Native Americans to a bountiful feast after the Native Americans “voluntarily” taught the Pilgrims how to grow crops. Today, we celebrate by counting our blessings and chowing down. In other countries, Thanksgiving generally celebrates the fall harvest and family; however, each country celebrates in the context of their own history. Here’s how other countries get down with their own Thanksgivings:
History: Some of the first settlers in Plymouth were from Leiden.
When: Fourth Thursday of November
The Plate: Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, hearty breads, Dutch apple pie followed by post-meal cookies and coffee.
History: After the slave trade ended, America sent liberated slaves to Liberia where the idea of Thanksgiving spread.
When: First Thursday of November
The Plate: Meat and vegetable casseroles, spiced beans, spiced rices, cassava, roasted fish, banana, papaya, mango and pineapple platters and plenty of cayenne pepper! Followed by getting funky with traditional Liberian dancehall music.
History: After WWII, America’s occupation of Japan carried over some Thanksgiving influence. Kinrō Kansha no Hi and Niiname-sai (Shinto holiday) celebrate the labor force and the first harvest of autumn.
When: November 23
The Plate: A large, indulgent feast isn’t usually offered. Instead, pretty boxes of confections and chocolates are given between workers as a token of appreciation. Confections include namagashi (rice flour and sweet bean paste molded into shapes to reflect the season), konpeito (crystal candies), yokan (jelly) and so much more. The Japanese get pretty cute with their snacks.
History: Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving, has been celebrated for centuries. The festival lasts three days and commemorates the importance of family, sometimes with a trip to the cemetery to pay respects.
When: Between September and October
The Plate: Songpyeon (crescent shaped rice cake stuffed with sweet sesame seeds, pine nuts or chestnut paste and presented on a bed of pine needles), broiled beef and fish, scallion pancakes, sujeonggwa (cinnamon persimmon punch) and fruit with the tops cut off to let the spirits in.
As we’re planning our Thanksgiving menu this year, let’s try to branch out and eat the holiday on a different plate. After all, America is a beautiful mosaic of unique cultures, each with loaded with its own awesome sauce.