How Thanksgiving is Celebrated Around the World

Thanksgiving spread served in metal dishes on a metal tray

If you've ever lived or traveled abroad, you know how thrilling it is to explore, and get to know life in an unfamiliar place. That is, until it's time for the holidays back home. It's particularly tough to be abroad when everyone else back home is celebrating the holidays.

And Thanksgiving is especially easy to miss for Americans abroad. While being home might not be an option, many still celebrate it by attempting to recreate the holiday's traditional spread. Since this can get pricey, this means that Thanksgiving in another country comes with its own local spin. With 6.32 million Americans abroad in 160 countries, Thanksgiving is probably being celebrated in more places than you'd think.

Here's how Thanksgiving looks in a few places around the world:

1. China

China has seen a small increase in American residents in recent years, which means that there has been a rise in people celebrating Thanksgiving too. In this short video, a man from Cleveland offers a fun look into celebrating Thanksgiving with fellow expats.

In Beijing, China's capital, turkeys begin to pop up in markets popular with ex-pats during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. But a turkey comes with a hefty price: a 14-pound frozen one can cost you over $50. Canned cranberry sauce is also a near impossible find in China, but thankfully there are alternatives.

Putting together a meal might mean mixing both American and Chinese dishes, and the result looks pretty fantastic

2. France


Celebrating Thanksgiving in France is definitely easier than it is in China. First of all, it's the leading turkey producer in the European Union, so you won't have any difficulties there. 

Paris has seen its fair share of Thanksgiving celebrations and unique traditions. Many American ex-pats visit Harry's Bar on the holiday, founded on Thanksgiving day in 1911. In the 1920s, the bar was frequented by famous writers like F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Well-established organizations like the American Center France or the French Heritage Society organize annual meals that give Americans in France a taste of home. 

There are websites and shops that cater to ex-pats looking for American ingredients, like canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce. If you're alone, you can always remedy your homesickness with a Big Mac from one of the 1,258 McDonald's restaurants in France.

3. Liberia


One place where Thanksgiving is also an official holiday is Liberia, a West African country settled by American colonizers in 1820.

It's usually celebrated on the first Thursday of November, and much like it's sister holiday in the United States, it is also a day to celebrate food and family. But Thanksgiving dinners in Liberia rarely involve turkey. Instead, the thanksgiving meal in Liberia involves roasted chicken, mashed cassavas, and green bean casseroles. 

4. Japan


Japan has its own version of Thanksgiving called Kinro Kansha-no-Hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day), which serves to thank the country's labor force for their hard work. Unlike our own Thanksgiving, it is not celebrated with feasts. It is usually celebrated on November 23. 

For ex-pats wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving the American way, there are a few options. Some major international hotels offer a traditional dinner, but at a steep price. The Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo offers a traditional sit-down meal at ¥6,000 per person (about $59).

There are options for recreating some elements of a traditional meal, but there are a few obstacles. Turkey, for example, can be a difficult find in Japan, and the conventional oven might not be able to cook one. Chicago native Michelle Lin told NPR that her Thanksgiving dinner would involve roast chicken, rice, and sushi.

But maybe the mix of traditions is what makes Thanksgiving abroad pretty wonderful. This video shows a festive, multicultural Thanksgiving that doesn't have the traditional food, but it still has the same festive spirit that we associate with today:

Are you celebrating Thanksgiving abroad? Let me know in the comments.