Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's likely that I won't be blogging for the rest of the week, so here's a little Thanksgiving-inspired post on the ways that various cultures around the world celebrate similar holidays. I can't vouch for accuracy, but I found it on the Internet, so what do you expect!

United States:
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 to celebrate a successful harvest in the new land. The celebration was based on harvest traditions that the colonists brought with them from England. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

The August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most celebrated Chinese holidays. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chinese families celebrate the end of the harvest season with a big feast. Unlike the American Thanksgiving dinner, the Chinese have mooncakes instead of grandma' apple pie. Friends and relatives also send mooncakes to each other as a way of giving thanks.

Succoth is the Jewish Harvest Festival. It begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. It is usually held in September and October. The celebration lasts for 7 days.
Succoth traditions and customs have both historical and religious significance. This festival dates back to the period during which Hebrews wandered in the wilderness on route to Canaan (now Israel - see Lev. 23:42-43). During their pilgrimage, they lived in temporary booths. This open living space is called a succah. People also gathered in sukkot (pleural for succah) to worship and share meals. Thus, Succoth is also called the Feast of Tabernacle. During harvest time, farmers also lived in sukkot in open fields. During Succoth, farmers take this time to thank God for the crops. Today, modern Jewish communities continue the traditions of building sukkot and holding festivities inside them. For kids who love camping in the outdoor, this is a lot of fun.

The Kwanzaa celebration is based on African harvest traditions. Kwanzaa means first fruits in Swahili. The celebration starts on December 26 and lasts for 7 days. Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture.
Contrary to popular belief, Kwanzaa does not substitute for Christmas. Many African American families celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa. The 7-day celebration is based on seven basic values of African culture. The 7 principles, in Swahili, are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

Pongal is a popular harvest festival in South India. Named after a sweet rice dish, Pongal starts on January 14 of each year. The celebration lasts for three days. On the first day, Pongal is offered to Bhogi or Indran (the rain gods) for providing rain for the harvest. On the second day, pongal is offered to the sun (Surya). On the third day, the family's cattle (mattu) is cleaned and dressed up with flowers, bells, and color powder. This is the day to honor the cattle's hard work for plowing the fields.

The Yam Festival is usually held in the beginning of August at the end of the rainy season. A popular holiday in Ghana and Nigeria, the Yam Festival is named after the most common food in many African countries. Yams are the first crops to be harvested. People offer yams to gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers. This is their way of giving thanks to the spirits above them.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

That was interesting, fact or not...I didn't know that Abraham Lincoln started Thanksgiving as a national holiday or about Kwanzaa (I just assumed it was a not-Christmas celebration). Too bad there aren't some Indian ranchers (from India) around here, because I'd like to see cows decorated in colored powder and flowers.