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Religious Thanksgiving festivals around the world

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.

Indian ethnic Tamil Hindu devotees prepare special food to celebrate the harvest festival of 'Pongal' at the Dharavi Slum of Mumbai, India, Monday, Jan 14, 2013. This celebration, held according to the solar calendar, marks the beginning of 'uttarayana' or the suns northward movement, considered to be very auspicious astrologically. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States are observed by millions of families each year.

About 46 million turkeys are eaten Thanksgiving, served each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

It's a day known as a secular holiday, but the historical Christian roots to the holiday date back to the 1600s.

But the U.S. isn't the only country to celebrate a day of thanks.

Here's a look at five other countries around the world that host days of thanksgiving, each of them offering a unique religious underpinning and dedicated to promoting peace and harmony among their countrymen and women:

• Pongal: Celebrated in India, this four-day harvest festival includes worship and prayers of thanksgiving to the sun god, Lord Surya, spending time with family, wearing new clothing and feasting on an abundance of food. It's celebrated mostly in south and central India.

• August Moon Festival: This Asian harvest festival, also known as the mid-autumn harvest, is celebrated in China. The ancient Chinese compared the moon's movement with the changes of the seasons and agricultural production. The moon festival derived of their desire to express thanks to the moon and celebrate the harvest season. It is the second most significant holiday of the year.

• Tet Trung Thu: This Vietnam autumn festival commemorates the end of the harvest season. It is the second most important holiday of the year, behind Vietnam's New Year's Tet celebration. Tet Trung Thu's celebrates thanksgiving for the harvest, gathering with friends and family, and offering prayers for health, happiness and prosperity. This also includes worship of the moon.

• Dia de Acao de Gracas: In Brazil, Thanksgiving is also celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It is celebrated to give thanks to the Almighty for his provision for the harvest throughout the year. The holiday was first introduced to Brazil and influenced by the U.S.' holiday and made a national holiday in August 1949. Church attendance and prayer are part of Brazil's Thanksgiving.

• Chu-Sok: In Korea, this three-day festival means "fall evening." Rice, beans, sesame seeds and chestnuts are included in a special dish called songpyeon, consumed at the harvest festival celebration. Before feasting on the menu, family members meet beneath the moonlight and remember their ancestors and forefathers.




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