While American shopping holiday Black Friday has spread across the world (just look at the Lifehacker front page right now!) Thanksgiving is one event that is, and always has been, quintessential USA. You might be surprised to find out, then, that one of the few places you can celebrate Thanksgiving outside of North America is on a tiny island that’s part of Australia.
Any guesses which island it might be? If you guessed Norfolk Island, already home to many unique customs and even its own language, you’d be correct.
Technically part of Australia, Norfolk Island sits between us and New Zealand, but is physically closer to New Caledonia in the north. While it was used as a penal colony in the 18th century, like other parts of Australia, Norfolk Island was eventually permanently settled by Pitcairn islanders: descendants of Bounty mutineers and a handful of native Tahitian people who had accompanied them.
Norfolk Islanders still carry this legacy with them, speaking Norfuk alongside English: a creole mix of 18th-century English and Tahitian. The adoption of American Thanksgiving, however is a more recent development.
Norfolk Island’s Thanksgiving has its roots in the 1800s, when the island was a frequent stop for American whaling ships, being in a convenient spot for passing ships to stop in. The American whalers brought some traditional Thanksgiving foods like cornbread and pumpkin pie, though due to the restrictions of sea travel, the traditional turkey doesn’t make a show in Norfolk Island’s Thanksgiving.
Instead, the island has developed its own unique Thanksgiving recipes, such as banana desserts and coconut pie, as well as including traditional dishes like Tahitian fish salad.
On Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of the month, so this year won’t be held until next Wednesday the 28th. However it is still celebrated like a traditional harvest festival, despite being at the end of spring – the local church is decorated with fresh produce, and it kicks off the Taste Norfolk Island Food festival, celebrating all things local produce and cuisine.