Thanksgiving Day in China

Like many American cultural things, the Thanksgiving holiday that originated in the United States is catching on in China — a little. It is mainly celebrated among Canadians and Americans who live in China, and sometimes teachers teach kids about the holiday. But the kids and adults reinterpret the day to be a day for giving thanks to their parents, teachers, friends and other people. In the US, it was meant to be a holiday for thanking God for his blessings. In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday of October. If Chinese people celebrate it, they celebrate it on the American date maybe thinking of Indians, Pilgrims, sailing ships, turkey and pumpkin pie since the story is known among educated people.


Thanksgiving Day that is one of the most popular festivals in North America. The holiday originated  in the American colonies in North America. It became a traditional day for Americans to feast and give thanks to God for his blessings. People also told stories about how the first Pilgrims to America who felt led to go to America and settle were rescued by God by many miracles so that they established a small settlement. They also wanted to feast with  the Indians who helped them. The story of how it turned out that the Indians helped them is a miracle in itself since the first Indian who helped them had lived in England so he understood their language. He may have been the only Indian alive in America at that time who returned to America after living in England for a while. Nowadays, Thanksgiving in America is a national holiday on the 4th Thursday in November. So people looked forward to four days off for vacation just before winter set in. It is a time for family reunions and feasts. People in America love to eat and have time off on the holiday. The favorite thanksgiving food is turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry jam, apple pie and pumpkin pie that is extremely delicious.

In China, many North Americans like to have a Thanksgiving meal and invite their local friends and workmates. However, finding turkey is problematical in most cities unless their is a foreign-oriented store there. So people usually roast geese or chicken instead. In many of the best international hotels, turkey can often be found on Thanksgiving Day. Expats may also be able to order a turkey delivered on Thanksgiving Day from a hotel restaurant. New Chinese supermarkets in the big cities may also stock frozen turkey.

Thanksgiving Day China 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions

The first Thanksgiving Day took the form of a special three-day church service. On the first day, a group of Indians and the colonists gathered together and expressed their gratitude to God. After this ceremony, they made a fire and shared a feast. On the second and third day, they enjoyed wrestling, racing, singing and dancing. The first Thanksgiving was a complete success, and many activities have traditionally followed. However, nowadays few Americans go to church on that day to celebrate like the Pilgrims did, and though kids and adults might play sports outside and wrestle, the main spectator sport that people enjoy are the big college and NFL football bowl games on television.  However, people want to try to reenact some of the other things the Pilgrims did such as feasting on the same food and putting up special decorations.


People usually gather whether there is a big table around noon on Thanksgiving or in the evening. Some people prefer having the big dinner at noon since this leaves the afternoon for being together and doing sports. Others prefer to first visit and play during the day and settle for a big meal in the evening. People usually want to invite their friends, and it is traditional for religious people to share stories about what God did for them during the year and what they are thankful for. Christians will often pray in a group prayer of thanks to God.

A big event for the men and boys is watching the football games on TV. There are major bowl games on TV, so many will eat and watch TV. Then when they get back to work, they talk about the football games. They have a lot of fun doing that.


Since the celebration is in the fall, people decorate with bowls of nuts or fruit, a big pumpkin, dried fruit and candy. The idea is to put a lot of food out for everyone to eat and to enjoy the abundance of food. Some people light candles. People also decorate with “Indian corn” that are multicolored corn cobs and the corn husks. They put the corn cobs on tables or may hang them on the door or in the window. To accentuate the feel of fall, people may try to find paper napkins or table cloths that have pictures of brown autumn leaves or of autumn fields or forests. 


Food is one of the highlights of the festival. It is a tradition for family members and groups of friends to get together for a large meal with roast turkey and pumpkin pie as the main dishes. Turkey and pumpkin pie are the most traditional and popular food. For a lot of people, roast ham is a favorite main dish. The turkey is traditionally stuffed with stuffing made of dried bread, chopped vegetables, and spices. Everyone has their own idea idea of how the stuffing should taste, but it generally contains a lot of black pepper and celery. Americans usually bake the turkeys in ovens. The turkeys are baked whole. They may be quite big such as 10 or 15 kilograms or 20 or 30 pounds, and it takes hours of baking to bake them. The host will slice the turkey and share it with every family member and guest. Pumpkin pie is a wonderful pie that usually contains cinnamon. The pumpkin is first ground and then baked. Apple pie is considered a traditional pie in America as well. Many Americans like to hunt, and families will often serve venison. Corn, sweet potato or yams, and squash are also common foods. People serve all kinds of fruits and nuts as well such as apples, oranges, chestnuts, walnuts and grapes. Cranberry sauce is commonly eaten as well, as is freshly baked bread.


The first Thanksgiving Day was held in 1621. The Pilgrims had a good harvest in 1621 partly because Indians taught them how to farm corn. The story of how this happened is amazing. When they landed in the Mayflower on November 9, 1620, they faced a long hard winter and about half of the 100 or so people who landed died. They arrived in an empty land. When they arrived, they didn’t know how to find food or grow crops. But they were met by a man called Squanto who had just arrived in the area a year earlier after living in England. When Squanto arrived in 1619, he found that his tribe and other tribes in the area was destroyed by an epidemic. He was lonely, and when the Pilgrims landed he walked into their camp. He taught them how to farm Indian corn, catch lobsters and look for wild food. When the Pilgrims arrived, the area around their camp had cleared corn fields ready for planting, but they didn’t know how to plant corn. They learned from Squanto that the tribe that was there had recently all died. The Pilgrims saw Squanto’s help and the ready to use empty cornfields as a miracle, and when they had an abundant harvest the next year, they had a Thanksgiving celebration.

In the United States, Thanksgiving was at celebrated on various dates in the various states. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving Day would be celebrated on a fixed day  in order to foster a sense of American unity between the Northern and Southern states. He set the date as the last Thursday in November. However, the number of Thursdays in November varies. In 1941, Congress made the fourth Thursday in November to the a legal holiday. In the last century, this gave many people a four-day Thanksgiving holiday since a 5-day workweek was standard. A two day weekend seems to be a thing of the past, but people are glad for a legal day off for Thanksgiving.


Posted in Chinese Culture, Holiday Gift