Thanksgiving Day Celebrations in China

Despite being an American holiday, Thanksgiving continues to make inroads into China. The holiday was once primarily celebrated by American ex-pats living in China. However, over the years, it has become more widely embraced as the Chinese people have drawn their own meanings and connections with it. It’s now not unheard of to hear about children learning about the American Thanksgiving in Chinese schools. Nor is it rare for people to host Thanksgiving feasts in a small portion of Chinese homes.

The rise of Thanksgiving in China is one example of the ways Chinese and American cultures blend to create connection and camaraderie between these two very different worlds. Read on to discover what Thanksgiving in China is like.

Blending Culture: Thanksgiving in China

Although some countries have their own Thanksgiving, celebrated at different times of the year, China celebrates Thanksgiving at the same time as Americans – the fourth Thursday of November. In China, people know the holiday as “Gan’en Jie” (感恩节), which literally translates to “thanks for grace.” Like in the U.S., people largely see it as a time to connect with friends and family, give official thanks to each other, and enjoy good food.

Many of the celebrations and activities of Thanksgiving in China are recognizable to Americans but have their own distinct Chinese interpretation. For example, though Thanksgiving isn’t an official Holiday where manufacturing and businesses close, it’s common to find:

Western Traditions

Homes decorated with pumpkins, corn, candy, plus bowls of fruits and nuts. These decorations symbolize abundance that the home has received throughout the year.

Furthermore, they enjoy Thanksgiving turkey, pumpkin, and cranberry dishes. These things are only available at international markets but are common elements of a feast.


Stories and reflections over meals. Many Chinese schoolchildren are familiar with the story behind the American Thanksgiving.

Christian Observances

Elements of Christianity. Thanksgiving in China is popular amongst Chinese Christians, but by no means restricted to them. This is widely seen as a time to remember the love and kindness of God.

China’s Interpretation of Giving Thanks

Regional or personal twists on dishes and celebrations. In-keeping with the view that celebrating Thanksgiving is a way to recognize both cultures, many people bring personal twists to the holiday to reflect Chinese culture. For instance, the Chinese may sometimes prepare duck instead of turkey, and crab rangoons instead of rolls.

Finding Common Ground Between the USA and China

Celebrating the American Thanksgiving in China is becoming more popular, creating an opportunity for both cultures to connect. Although it’s not as big as Christmas or the Chinese New Year, it’s nonetheless seen as an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks. So, don’t be afraid to say Happy Thanksgiving to your Chinese partner this year. They’ll not only know what you’re talking about but will likely appreciate the gesture.

ITI Manufacturing helps companies develop deeper relationships with their offshore manufacturers through an understanding of Chinese culture. Call us toll-free at 281-242-7030 to get started.

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