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Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, but the the concept of giving thanks and celebrating harvests is a global tradition with equivalents in many African countries. One of the most famous harvest festivals that takes place in Ghana and Nigeria is called the Yam Festival. This harvest celebration is held in early August at the end of the rainy season when the yams are harvested.
Sometimes called "To Hoot at Hunger" in Ghana and "New Yams" in Nigeria, the harvesting of the yams is celebrated with parades, dancing, songs, and drumming. Yams are a staple food of many African diets, and a plentiful harvest is important for survival. The yam is an especially important foodstuff because stores for a long time and is very valuable during the wet season, when food is scarce.
During the Yam Festival, communities come together to give thanks for a good harvest and to pray for no famine in the next growing season. In appreciation, people offer yams to gods and ancestors before distributing them to the villagers. The Yam Festival, like Thanksgiving, is a time of being thankful and proud.
Did you know that, despite their appearance and common flavor, that yams and sweet potatoes are not genetically related at all? The confusion can be blamed on the US government, who many years ago labeled orange sweet potatoes as "yams" in an attempt to differentiate between the two varieties of American sweet potatoes (one with creamy white flesh and the other with orange flesh).
Yams, on the other hand, are native to Africa, Asia, and other tropical regions. They are starchy tubers that come in a variety of colors and can grow upwards of five feet long. If you want to taste a true yam, they can sometimes be found in international markets, such as those that specialize in Caribbean foods.