‘A very heartwarming kind of celebration’: Thanksgiving, to Chinese

Society & Culture

In practically every culture, showing our gratitude and thankfulness is a valued virtue. The United States — like other countries such as Germany, Japan, and Liberia — has a national holiday for demonstrating gratitude. We know this holiday as today, Thanksgiving.

In China, too, acknowledgement of gratitude is a deeply rooted value in the culture, as seen through various Chinese idioms (e.g., 感恩戴德 gǎnēndàidé, to be grateful for; 镂骨铭肌 lòugǔmíngjī, remember forever with gratitude), literature, and a traditional emphasis on piety. So we took some time to ask local Chinese what they think of this quintessentially American holiday, and all the spoils that go with it.

Winny, freshman at New York University

One of my best friends is an ABC (American-born Chinese). She told me that on Thanksgiving, her family will spend a whole day prepping food and then family and friends will all visit. And then at dinner, everyone will eat together: roast turkey, potato.

We also want to create a Thanksgiving dinner tradition at our university. We all think this is a very heartwarming kind of celebration.

We also think this holiday’s message is very important. Parents who teach their children how to show gratitude can really impact a lot of people. This is really warm and perfect! I hope China can have a similar holiday. Chinese culture places importance on wishing other people well. For example, wishing longevity and happiness for the whole family, for others, are all expressions of gratitude that need to be cherished and celebrated. It needs a once-a-year type of formality to raise its appeal.

Sun Yiyun 孙艺韵, flight attendant trainee

Thanksgiving in my opinion is an outside idea that is really significant and something that is needed in my country. It is a reminder to those people who are normally so busy to be thankful, and to help people pay attention to this small gift, or to value kind words. The “thanks” in Thanksgiving comes from a very warm feeling from the bottom of people’s hearts. I urge people to learn how to show gratitude, and not forget how to do that!

Yang Muchen 杨沐晨, student

My impression of Thanksgiving is that it’s for expressing gratitude to God for bestowing us all, perhaps because there are quite a lot of Christians in America. Most Chinese aren’t religious, so there’s no such thing as being thankful for food (saying grace); Chinese believe in attaining results through labor.

This holiday is most similar to a Chinese holiday in which family gets together to eat food, so a little like Spring Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival? Except during Thanksgiving, the food is turkey, while for Mid-Autumn, it’s moon cakes, haha.

Sun Dongshan 孙东山, Brock University student

Thanksgiving is a foreign holiday where family members get together and have dinner, chat, and usually indulge in some sort of family tradition such as playing a game, going on a family hike, and so forth. I know there are all sorts of fascinating family traditions out there. I really just think Thanksgiving is a holiday that represents family and reunion.

China doesn’t need to have a holiday similar to Thanksgiving because China already has Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival, which represents family reunion. I think instead of creating a holiday similar to Thanksgiving, it would be better to encourage young people to eat moon cakes during Mid-Autumn Festival and let everyone understand that China already has many festivals that encourages families being together.

Winston Chen 陈迪, media presenter

Thanksgiving in fact doesn’t matter to me that much except the Black Friday part — I liked that bit when I lived in the States. Yet beyond that, I did find that I lacked the cultural roots to share the mood of the people around, especially considering I studied in the U.S. without any of my family nearby. But again, having a break to do some road trips was cool.

Javy Sun 孙嘉蔚, Jilin University student

My Thanksgiving Day is just like every single day in my life, because my friends and I don’t celebrate it. I think Thanksgiving should include some Chinese elements to make it more appealing for us Chinese.

Wang Luobo 王萝卜, Suzhou Vocational College student

Pity, haven’t experienced this holiday, don’t have much impression of it. But since it’s a holiday, as a northerner, I think we can eat some dumplings.

From the Editors: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.