Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Thanksgiving Day Phenomenon

Is Thanksgiving Day a World Holiday?

It is that time of the year again in the US - the annual Thanksgiving long weekend. Thanksgiving in the US falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and is a federal holiday. Friday is effectively a holiday too for most people (most definitely a holiday for schools and universities). So it's four blissful days of hanging out with the family and friends, eating too much, and shopping (the bargain on Black Friday is hard to resist). So it's a pretty big deal in the US, if only, by virtue of those four days of rest from one's daily life.

But I am greatly nonplussed at how big it has become in other countries! Upon logging into my Facebook account, no less than five Singaporeans (at 9 am Singapore time) had already wished their friends happy thanksgiving and giving thanks for this and that in their lives.


People living in Singapore in the 80s and 90s were amply exposed to Thanksgiving through the media. I still remember all those American holiday movies that would be screened on Channel 5 in November and December (I always looked forward to those because of the winter scenes). And yeah, traditional American thanksgiving (along with the huge turkey) celebrations were often featured on many of these movies. But I do not recall any of us Singaporeans actually celebrating this holiday, as the Americans did. I never once wished my fellow Singaporean a Happy Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday on November! Well, not until I came to live in US at least.

So where is this coming from? Globalization of culture?

This McDonaldization of culture is a bit sad.

How many Singaporeans actually know of the origins of Thanksgiving? That it is essentially a harvest festival? Are they aware that Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada (second Monday of October) and in some places in Europe?

Interestingly, there are harvest festivals that are celebrated in Singapore itself - such as Onam and Pongal (by some ethnic groups within the South Indian community) that most Singaporeans are clueless about.

Now isn't that a shame?

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