Thanksgiving-Like Holidays From Around the Globe

More

The American holiday isn't as uniquely American as you might think

wantbig.jpg

Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want," Wikimedia

The first time I tried to cook Thanksgiving dinner, I was living in Costa Rica and it was so hot the sloths in the backyard had given up on movement completely. I abandoned my attempt to turn my sticky corn masa into anything resembling a roll, fretted over the right amount of time to microwave sweet potatoes, and tried to call my mother. Before trying to translate the quintessentially American holiday for people who had never experienced it, I had never given much thought to Thanksgiving fare. But after living in Guayabo, a small company town surrounding a geothermal electrical plant, trading stories with my six host siblings about American and Costa Rican traditions -- after we celebrated Virgen de Los Angeles, and they made me tamales -- I felt the need to return the favor.

As far as traditional dinners go, my tropical July Thanksgiving was a flop. But it turns out that giving thanks with a holiday and a big meal is a surprisingly common, if not quite universal, impulse. In some cases, the holidays are much older than our own. Before the Pilgrims and buckled shoes (or, for that matter, the stampede deaths outside Wal-Mart), many people around the world had their own version of giving thanks for abundant harvests, or conversely, praying for harvests to come.

Fortunately, humanity's expressions of gratitude don't all include microwaved mashed sweet potatoes (though many are conspicuously lacking turkey, football, or a Macy's parade). The following list of Thanksgiving-like holidays are just a few of the different ways that societies have found to thank deities and ancestors for their food, their health, or their family.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lois Farrow Parshley

Lois Parshley is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In