Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World

What better day to share our thanks than on Thanksgiving. There are many ways to show thanks such as sending a gift, letter, attending a service, or simply sharing a phone call with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Turkey day is one of the best days to carry out family traditions, or start new ones.

Thanksgiving and its traditions are observed around the world in different ways. In the United States, we focus on feasting and family, while remembering the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Observing Thanksgiving around the world can include autumn harvest festivals, celebrating a successful growing season, remembering ancestors, and commemorating a historical battle. A common theme among all “Thanksgivings” around the world is “giving thanks.” Here’s  how the United States, Canada, Ghana, and more give thanks!

United States   United States Flag

Here in the United States, the most common Thanksgiving tradition is of course the turkey! Oven baked turkey is a staple on the table along with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Families gather to give thanks for what, and who, they have in their lives over a large feast. Americans celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November.

Canada   Canada Flag

The first Canadian Thanksgiving is believed to have been held in 1578…that’s 40 years older than the United States Thanksgiving! Those American colonists who were loyal to the British Crown during the Revolutionary War, moved to Canada. When they moved, they brought the classic American Thanksgiving tradition of eating turkey with them. Canadians celebrate this holiday on the second Monday in October.

Ghana   Ghana Flag

Homowo is a festival that celebrates the harvest. Before the festival, there is a month long ban on noise. If there is too much noise, it is believed that the growth of the crops will be stunted. Homowo translates to “hoot at hunger.” This festival began during pre-colonial times in Ghana after there was a famine.  The famine was a result of no rain, and a poor harvest. Families often spend time settling disputes and mending lost ties for part of the festival. Kpokpoi is often served with Palm Nut Soup.  Then traditionally, it is spread throughout town.

Norfolk Island   Norfolk Island Flag

Norfolk Island used to be a British penal colony. The island is located off the eastern coast of Australia and is known for its pine trees. Today, the beautiful Norfolk Island is home to about 2,000 people and is a quaint tourist destination. Isaac Robinson, an American trader, held a traditional American Thanksgiving at a local church on the island in the mid-1890s. Robinson passed that year, but the tradition continued at the All Saints Church, where it began, every year following. Instead of turkey, the islanders enjoy pork, chicken, and bananas but continue to eat pumpkin pie! Islanders celebrate on the last Wednesday in November.

Germany   Germany Flag

Erntedankfest is held on the first Sunday in October and is dominated by the churches. This day is considered Germany’s Thanksgiving as they give thanks for the year’s harvest and a plentiful growing season. Erntedankfest translates to “thanks for the harvest festival.” People fill woven baskets with flowers, fruits, and vegetables to take them to church for a blessing. Once blessed, the people distribute them to the poor. Erntedankfest is a day centered on religion and community. Rouladen is often enjoyed at the table with mohnstriezel. Mohnstriezel is a sweet poppy seed loaf.

Puerto Rico   Puerto Rico Flag

In 1898, Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States after the US defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans since have excitedly adopted the American Thanksgiving traditions. Like Americans, they celebrate what is arguably the best day of November, Black Friday! They continue to celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November.

If you want to start a new tradition this Thanksgiving for your family, consider adding a new Thanksgiving food to the table.  Remember to give thanks, and appreciate the people in your life.  There is always something to be thankful for. Happy feasting!


Aly Veo is our fall 2019 University of New Hampshire marketing intern. When she’s not studying or working hard here at she enjoys running, time spent with family, and is the president of her sorority.