Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and our US team will, along with many others, be celebrating with a day off spent, for the most part, with family.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in numerous places, but on different dates, and with a slightly different cultural meaning and way of celebrating.
Because we have a team based out of the USA, let’s start with looking at Thanksgiving there:
In the USA, Thanksgiving dates back to the times that the Pilgrim Fathers, and was initially a religious celebration which, over time, became entwined with the USA’s political history. George Washington declared it a national holiday in America in 1789 as a day of “thanksgiving and prayer”. It has now become a major cultural celebration, a time for reflection and family and even one or two peculiar customs, not least of which is the President of the USA issues a pardon to turkey. This lucky bird will be saved from the dinner plate (a turkey roast is traditional fare for the holiday) and allowed to roam free for the rest of its natural life.
Thanksgiving in the USA is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Its proximity to the weekend and the now traditional retail sales the day after Thanksgiving serve to ensure that the holiday is an extended – and culturally important – break, marked with feasting and parades.
In Canada, Thanksgiving has a similar religious history. It is far closer both in date and nature to a ‘harvest festival’ celebrated by both Christian and Pagan religions. It is, however, a statutory and secular holiday in most Canadian states, and is celebrated on the second Monday in October.
Thanksgiving Germany: Erntedankfest
Although at times in history it has been politicized, German thanksgiving has primarily religious roots, many of which point back to the Christian/Pagan Harvest Festival. Different areas of Germany celebrate on different dates in late September/early October, with feasts, carnivals, marches and celebrations, including the World famous beer festival, Oktoberfest.
Labor Thanksgiving: Japan
Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day falls on November 23 each year. Although its early origins were in the harvest festival, its current form came about during the American occupation after World War II. It’s an official day off to commemorate workers and production and to thank each other.
Thanksgiving Korea: Chuseog/Chuseok
Korea celebrates a major cultural holiday – a harvest festival and three-day holiday – on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar (which means the date changes annually).People return to their home towns, where a variety of traditions include feasting, dance, games and music.
Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday in November. The holiday’s roots are American: Liberia, West Africa, was colonized by ex-slaves with the support of various US political movements.
In the workplace
Various other countries and islands also have holidays with political and religious roots.
When we work across cultures, it’s easy to see other’s celebrations as unimportant simply because we, personally, don’t celebrate them. But they are usually far more than just a day off to people, and if one of your work colleagues won’t be at their desk for a Thanksgiving celebration, why not ask them how they’ll be celebrating?
If you’re celebrating, why not make it clear to colleagues that this is a big celebration for you by including them in some small way. You could send them an appropriate greetings card (easy with the advent of e-cards) or a photo of what you’ve done in previous years, as appropriate. Help the people you work with to understand the importance of your celebration to you.
It’s easy when we work remotely to forget that others we work with may not appreciate the significance of our own celebration. For them life goes on as normal, but with the added inconvenience of not having us there!