Cow decorated for Mattu Pongal, 1996

Photo: Sue Bodenlos:

Harvest Festivals Not an American Innovation

With all due respect to the many who regard America’s Thanksgiving as the biggest holiday of the year, there are currently some 7.35 billion people on this planet for whom this coming Thursday will be just another day. Alternatively, for example, please note:

  • Mid-Autumn (Mooncakes) Festival, China and Vietnam: A late-September/early-October full moon harvest celebration, giving thanks to the harmonious union of family and friends;
  • Chonburi Buffalo Races, Ban Bueng and Nong Yai Districts, Thailand: An October celebration to precede the rice harvest, featuring outrageously adorned water buffalos competing for speed, stamina and fashion;
  • Pongal Festival of the Sun, Tamil Nadu, India: A January multi-day Tamil community harvest festival of South India, dedicated to the Hindu sun god Surya with cows enlisted for decoration, ritual bathing and parades; and
  • Asogli Te Za (Yam Festival), Volta Region, Ghana: An August/September commemoration to the ripening of the yams.

Whatever your custom or preference, happy Thanksgiving!


American lawyer, somewhere in the Ashanti Region, Ghana, 2007

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