Submitted by Jennifer Noto
Thanksgiving traditions in the U.S. usually involve family, football, and a somniferous spread of foods. While our holiday has evolved from that first humble meal in 1621 where colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a feast, it remains a day we look forward to and cherish. Likewise, many cultures around the world have celebrations that have evolved over the years but are rooted in honoring nature’s providence.
Malaysia: The Kadazan Harvest Festival
Celebrated each May, this festival is centered on honoring the rice gods, who are believed to provide an abundant harvest. Festivities include wearing traditional costumes and drinking tapai, an alcoholic beverage made from rice wine.
Korea: Chu Suk
Chu Suk roughly means “bountiful abundance.” This holiday is a celebration of the harvest in Korea and is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Typically, this is in August or September. During this festival, Koreans eat Songphyon—crescent-shaped rice cakes stuffed with sesame seeds, chestnut paste or beans. Other traditions include offering food to ancestors as an act of worship and gratitude.
Ghana: Homowo Festival
Similar to Malaysia and Korea, this African festival celebrates the harvest. Homowo is celebrated by the Ga people of the Accra region of Ghana and commemorates a period of famine in the country’s history. A month prior to the festival there is a ban on all noisemaking and drumming to symbolize the despair of the famine. Once the famine broke the people shouted with joy. The word Homowo translates to “hooting at hunger.”
Vietnam: Tet Trung Thu
Tet Trung Thu is a mid-Autumn celebration that takes place in Vietnam. The holiday revolves around spending time with children and can be seen as a cross between American Halloween and Thanksgiving. During this holiday, children parade through the streets holding brightly colored lanterns and traditional food like moon cakes (round pastries) are enjoyed. The origins of the festival relate to celebrating the harvest and prosperity in life.
A celebration enjoyed in India is called Holi, or “Festival of Colors.” This holiday is celebrated each March and usually lasts two days. Festivities include throwing colored powders and liquids and enjoying delicious foods in excess. It is a celebration of the coming spring where bonfires are lit to symbolically banish the cold from the grains and welcome the spring harvests.
At The Welcome to America Project, we love hearing about the various traditions of refugees arriving in the U.S. Next time you join us on a delivery, ask a refugee about their unique cultural festivities. Sign up for a delivery today!