Missing Thanksgiving Dinner? 4 Feasts and Festivals to Observe Instead
November 6, 2019
By Jamie Cattanach

November is a pretty wonderful time to travel abroad. The big summer crowds (and sky-high summer temperatures) have calmed down a bit, and tourists may even benefit from shoulder season pricing. 

But being away from the States for Thanksgiving can be bittersweet for Americans. Sure, it might seem like missing out on your great uncle’s political rants is a bonus… but come the day itself, you may find yourself pining for mom’s stuffing or your sister’s famous apple pie. (Or, you know, just their company.)

Fortunately, there are a variety of feasts and fests to check out all across the globe — and although they might not revolve around carving a turkey, they’re still filled with delicious food, fun, and possibly even some new friends. 

Here are some options to consider if your wanderlust has you missing Thanksgiving this year.

1. Yi Peng and Loy Krathong Festivals, Thailand

If you find yourself in northern Thailand in mid-November, you’ll be in for not one, but two fantastic festivals: Yi Peng and Loy Krathong, both of which take place over the same four-day span (situated around the full moon on the Thai Lunar calendar). 

Although they share dates, they are not the same event: Yi Peng is the well-Instagrammed lantern festival, where hand-crafted paper dirigibles light up the night sky; Loy Krathong invites celebrants to thank the goddess of water for the season’s harvest by lighting candles and floating them in banana leaves down the Ping.

But what this means for you, November traveler, is a veritable feast for the eyes that more than makes up for missing the traditional Thanksgiving feast for the belly. And while the lanterns and candles are the main events of these festivals, there’s sure to be lots of delicious Thai food to enjoy while you’re getting your lanterns ready, too.

2. Ficksburg Cherry Festival, South Africa

Celebrated annually on a late November weekend, the Ficksburg Cherry Festival brings visitors to the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, where they’ll find this hidden gem of a town that’s known by locals as the “cherry capital of the world.” Dating back to 1968 (making it the longest-running crop festival in South Africa), this cherry-themed festival includes street parades, a ball, and even a beauty pageant, wherein the reigning Cherry Queen is crowned. 

If you’re a serious cherry aficionado, you can even book tours of local cherry farms, and there’s also a tour specifically for confessed chocoholics. It may not be pumpkin pie, but we think a freshly-dipped chocolate-covered cherry gives traditional Thanksgiving fare a run for its money!

3. Saint Leopold’s Feast, Austria

If you’re looking for something a little bit more traditional (and boozy), consider heading to Austria this winter. Saint Leopold, the country’s patron, is celebrated across the country with feasting on November 15 — which also happens to be the start of Austria’s wine season.

Thus, Saint Leopold is heralded with much merriment, including lavish outdoor parties, traditional music, and, of course, wine tasting. In fact, some make the pilgrimage to Klosterneuburg Monastery, famous for the wines its monks have been creating for more than 900 years. But along with drinking it, there’s another step to celebrating Saint Leopold in authentic style: visitors climb onto a gigantic, 12,000-gallon wine barrel and slide down it like a kid in a playground. This is done for good luck, they say… though we suspect it might just be plain good fun.

4. The Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand

Yes, it’s another Thai festival… but what can we say? Those people really know how to throw a party. And on the final Sunday in November, you’ll find a towering feast of fruit laid out in the ruins of the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi, Thailand — but it’s not for human visitors.

Instead, this banquet is offered to the local macaques, who have been seen as symbols of prosperity and good luck by Thai people for centuries. And fortunately, you won’t have to fight the monkeys for a meal; the festival draws many vendors who are more than happy to serve the event’s human participants.

So there you have it: four worthy swaps for any Thanksgiving dinner. Now all you have to do is get your favorite family members to come along with you. Then, it’ll be like you aren’t missing the holiday at all!

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