On this day of thanks, Passport Health wants to send out an extra special thank you to each and every member of our company team, all of whom devote so much of their time to promoting and educating about good health. A tremendous thank you goes out as well to all of our clients for allowing us to help you all stay healthy and well for your domestic health needs and international travels. Although most of us are likely to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones here in the United States, many cultures throughout the world have their own version of thanksgiving and harvest holidays. In case you want to plan an international trip in the fall next year, here are a few particularly interesting global days of thanks in which you may want to participate.
Travel to Greece, Russia, or the Ukraine to Celebrate the Intercession of the Theotokos
This holiday celebrates the protection given to the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos, or the Virgin Mary. While not a harvest holiday, per se, the feasting done during this time in Eastern Orthodox culture is built upon a foundation of gratitude for the protections the faithful believe have been afforded to them by the Virgin Mary.
This holiday is held every year on either Oct. 1 or 14 (due to the Julian calendar), and the holiday involves an all-night vigil followed by a great feast.
Travel to Israel for Sukkot
Also called the Feast of Booths, Sukkot is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated from late September to late October, depending on the lunar calendar. The holiday traditionally lasts seven days in Israel and eight days outside of the nation. The first day is a sabbath-like holiday during which no work is allowed, and it ends with a similar day.
Sukkot is a thanksgiving celebration that commemorates the forty-year period during which, according to the Torah, the Israelites wandered through the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. In more recent times, the opening and closing days have become more full festivals, celebrated with prayer services and holiday meals.
Travel to India or Nepal for Makar Sankranti
This Hindu festival celebrates the harvest and marks the movement of the sun into the path of the constellation Capricorn and commemorates the fact that days will begin to be longer and warmer (in India, at least!). The date of Makar Sankranti remains constant on January 14, because it is based on a solar event and not a date on the lunar calendar.
The exact significance of the holiday will vary from location to location, but the methods of celebrating remain generally the same with celebrants flying thousands of brightly colored kites and preparing various sweets for family and friends. People will generally abstain from daily chores and spend time with friends and family on this day.
Travel to China and Vietnam for a Mid-Autumn Festival
This festival, celebrated throughout China and into Vietnam, takes place on the night of the full moon between early September and October. It is known by many names including: Moon Festival, Lantern Festival, Zhongqiu Festival and Children’s Festival. This holiday celebrates three central concepts: gathering (such as the family or crops), thanksgiving (for the harvest and family unity), and prayer (for material well-being, health, and good fortune).
An important part of the festival is making offerings to a moon deity named Chang’e, or the Moon Goddess of Immortality. Modern celebrations of the holiday include outdoor reunions with friends and family during which participants eat mooncakes and watch the moon rise. In some regions, lantern festivals and the performance of special dances occur. In other regions, this festival is also seen as a matchmaking time so that couples have additional opportunities to meet and find love.
Travel to Korea for Chuseok
Also known as Hangawi, Chuseok is a three day harvest festival in Korea celebrated from mid-September to early October, based on the lunar calendar. This festival honors ancestors but is also a thanksgiving celebration.
For this holiday, many will leave the cities to visit the tombs of their ancestors. Early in the mornings, ancestral worship rituals are performed, and offerings of food and drink are made to the ancestors. One of the major foods prepared and served, both to the living and the dead, is sonpyeon. This is a type of rice cake filled with black beans, chestnut, or jujube. It is cooked with pine needles, giving it both a distinct pine fragrance as well as its name (the ‘song’ in songpyeon means pine tree in Korean).
Do you have personal travel experiences with these holidays or other thanksgiving celebrations abroad? Please share your stories below, and have a very happy day of thanks wherever your journeys may take you!