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Opinion

Holidays focused on thanks celebrated around world

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November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, with only a week until we get to get together with our families and stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing and, most importantly, pie.

While Thanksgiving is a holiday primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada, several other countries around the world have their own Thanksgiving holidays to celebrate.

This may come as a surprise since many people typically think of Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims coming to the New World. Now, it is a holiday to celebrate everything that we are thankful for. People all around the world can take time on this holiday to focus on the things in life that they appreciate the most.

The holiday is celebrated on the second Monday in October each year in Canada and is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year in the United States.

It is celebrated so early in Canada because of the earlier winter, and, therefore, harvest. The holiday is known to have several different traditions from country to country, so it is typically extended through the next weekend or the weekend that falls closest to the day that it is celebrated.

Throughout history, Thanksgiving was a holiday known to have roots in religious and cultural tradition. The United States bases Thanksgiving off of the English traditions from the Protestant Reformation. Today, it is more commonly celebrated as a secular and casual holiday.

There were no permanent English settlements in Canada until the early 18th Century. Even though this is the case, the first Canadian Thanksgiving has a historical background. It is traced back to 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher tried to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Their celebration was not to celebrate harvest, but to celebrate thanks that Frobisher had safely completed the journey, despite storms and icebergs.

People also trace the roots of Thanksgiving back to French settlers led by Samuel de Champlain. They are celebrated for having found New France and celebrated successful harvests.

Now, Thanksgiving takes place to give thanks at the close of the harvest season. The original act of Parliament recognizes the holiday in a religious manner, often referencing God, but most people celebrate it in a secular manner.

Late autumn observance of the holiday became more common when immigrants came to the country, such as the Irish, Scotts and Germans.

In other parts of the world, countries celebrate a similar holiday to Thanksgiving. In Germany, they celebrate a holiday called “Erntedankfest,” or the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival. The holiday is widely observed on a religious basis, though it is also quite similar to the United States, as they celebrate with a large feast.

In Grenada, an island west of India, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on Oct. 25. Though similar in the name, the holiday marks an occasion vastly different from that of the United States or Canada. It marks the U.S.- led invasion of the island in 1983, following the deposition and execution of Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 23, and it has been celebrated since American occupation during World War II. They use this as a day to give thanks to fellow Japanese citizens for their labor and production. An ancient harvest ceremony has been celebrated to honor hard work.

Thanksgiving in Liberia is celebrated to commemorate its colonization in 1820 by free American blacks.

Many of the pilgrims actually came from a city in the Netherlands called Leiden, where they resided from 1609 to 1620. The Dutch still commemorate this today with a non-denominational religious service in Pieterskerk, a Gothic church. They celebrate this on the American Thanksgiving Day to commemorate the guidance that the pilgrims received upon arrival in the New World.

With only a week to go until Thanksgiving here in the United States, it is time to look forward to the parades, food and family. There is a lot to be thankful for in all of our lives and this should be a day used to recognize that.

And, if nothing else, it serves as a much needed break for all of us as this semester begins to wrap up. Just remember one thing: the day after Thanksgiving is the best day of the year to sleep in.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.