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You may have spent Thursday the 24th celebrating Thanksgiving if you live in the United States of America. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the American population does, being the most popular holiday second only to Christmas. But did you know that there are 74 different harvest festivals celebrated worldwide in 72 different countries? That means that roughly 37 percent of countries take time each year to celebrate and show gratitude for the previous year’s harvest, but what does it mean for us?

               What makes American Thanksgiving different?

American Thanksgiving, as it is commonly called internationally, is to some American’s an important part of their history. According to tradition, after pilgrims first landed on the North American continent in October of 1621, they participated in a feast alongside the Wampanoag Native American people. This led to subsequent feasts each year that eventually began to revolve around the harvest. Initially these feasts were part of Christian religious practices and involved fasting prior to the feast, but soon the holiday and religious practices were separated. Despite this, many still see religious ceremonial attendance as an important part of their celebration.

The holiday was observed nationally intermittently until President Abraham Lincoln declared it an official holiday, which has stuck around to this day. In modern times the holiday has grown and changed with the nation. Traditions involve both the playing and watching of American Football, large parades, and of course the feast remains. Dishes have changed of course, pilgrims didn’t have marshmallows to put on their sweet potatoes, and Jell-O wouldn’t be invented for another 164 years.

What makes American Thanksgiving different is its story. For many it is a defining part of American history and an important day for them and their families. This isn’t to discredit other harvest festivals held worldwide, as many of them have the same experience. Their celebrations are just as important to them, part of their history, and often define how they view their country and culture.

               What do Harvest Festivals mean for us?

Well, it means that worldwide, we may not be as different as we all think. More than one third of the world’s population has a specific celebration set aside for the harvest. Even countries that don’t still have roots in farming, agriculture, and harvest. No country could exist without food, water, and resources because people couldn’t exist without them.

Of course, in modern times not everyone is a farmer and not everyone needs to be, but we still couldn’t get by without them. Culturally we may all be different, with traditions and celebrations that don’t always involved football or turkey gravy, but every person has things they are grateful for. Every person has their own personal harvest.

               In Conclusion

Just because the holiday is over and people are ready to move onto Christmas doesn’t mean that harvest celebrations are still happening all over the world. Hopefully that makes the world feel a little smaller and stands as a reminder that we aren’t so different. Sure, our cultures and practices vary from place to place, but that’s true even in America. The world will always rely on the harvest, and that can be a unifying factor if we let it be. As you celebrate, we invite you to keep that in mind, and be grateful for a world full of people who have the same needs as you do. Grateful, for a world that can be both different, and the same, wherever you go.

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