4 Global Thanksgiving Traditions and How to Bring Them To Your Table

by ParentCo. November 17, 2016

A child sitting in a table along with candles

As grocery stores start to stock turkeys in abundance and orange pumpkin cans overflow out of the aisles, it’s hard to deny that Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

As you prepare for an influx of guests, tidying the house and preparing the menu, make sure to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to reflect on the harvest and give thanks for all that we have. But we’re not the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.

Enrich your children’s experience of the holiday by incorporating a few elements of these Thanksgiving traditions from around the world.

Canada – Thanksgiving

Our neighbor to the north celebrates Thanksgiving, but their celebration is not rooted in stories of Pilgrims and Native Americans. Rather, the Canadian holiday honors the day that Martin Frosbisher landed in Newfoundland in 1578. Canadians remember this day on the second Monday of October, a feast day that aligns with the traditional European harvest festivals.

How can you celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in your home this year? Bring the flavors of Canada to your table and bake a classic Canadian pie, like Maple Pie or Flapper Pie. Young children can have fun kneading the dough, while older kids can handle larger tasks like whipping egg whites.

Judaism – Sukkot

Jewish people across all nations also celebrate this time of year. Sukkot, a Jewish pilgrimage festival, commemorates the end of the harvest. Traditionally, the festival is celebrated outside in a hut, which reminds Jewish people of the temporary huts ancient Israelites used as they journeyed across the desert.

Looking for ways to bring aspects of Sukkot to your Thanksgiving? Sukkot is a time for rejoicing. Beyond the usual “What are you thankful for this year” question, go around the table and ask your kids what makes them rejoice.

China – Festival of the Moon

China also holds a feast to celebrate and give thanks for the end of the harvest. According to Chinese legend, the bright moon of this feast day (the 15th day of the lunar month) encourages both rekindled friendships and romances. Because of this festival’s particular emphasis on the moon, traditional celebrants often enjoy a beautifully decorated flaky pastry called a mooncake.

How can you welcome the Festival of the Moon to your house? To teach the importance of maintaining friendships, have your children write a letter to an old friend. Let them pick a filling for your homemade mooncake.

Korea – Thanksgiving

Korea celebrates only three major holidays, and a day of thanks is one of them. Korean Thanksgiving, like the others, is a day to share food, give thanks, and spend time with family members and other loved ones.

Unlike the other holidays mentioned, Korean Thanksgiving is a three-day event. A feast is offered in honor of deceased family members. Families often make special trips to cemeteries to pay their respects. Other Korean holiday traditions include wresting matches and dances.

Incorporate aspects of Korean Thanksgiving into your home by learning a new dance with your children. Share what you learned with your extended family when they visit for the holidays. Whether it’s a simple box step or a crazy-no-rules-jig, a little dance is bound to boost everyone’s energy. Or host a wrestling match! (Just kidding. Kids rough-house enough as it is.)

Tell a story about a past Thanksgiving. Remember when Great-Grandma made five extra pies only to discover she’d used salt instead of sugar? Share with your kids the special stories about loved ones who aren’t present for this year’s gathering.

You can have a three-day celebration, too! Don’t limit family bonding to Thursday alone. Extend the festivities by limiting extra shopping and focusing on family-oriented activities in the days after Thanksgiving.

All of these traditions share a common goal: to make ourselves aware of our blessings and to give thanks for each one. On this day, make sure to give your kids an extra squeeze, and let them know how thankful you are for them.



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