Thanksgiving on Norfolk Island

How did the American holiday tradition influence a tiny island in the South Pacific?

Norfolk Island is a small island between Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps the most unexpected place where one will find a Thanksgiving celebration inspired by the American tradition is on Norfolk Island, a small island in the South Pacific.

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The island, which is a little more than 13.36 square miles and has about 2,100 residents, is about 904 miles from Brisbane, Australia. Locals on the island speak English and also communicate in a Norfuk dialect (a mix of English and Tahitian), and the area is technically considered to be an Australian territory.

This background info still begs the question of how Thanksgiving came to this part of the world. According to an islander Thanksgiving expert, the holiday was formally introduced to the island in the mid-1890s when Isaac Robinson, an American trader who came to Norfolk as an agent and eventually became "the island’s first (and so far only) United States consul."

Robinson suggested decorating the All Saints Church with palm leaves and lemons in the capital of Kingston and the tradition stuck. Today, families celebrate on the fourth Wednesday of November by bringing produce to sell to help raise money for church upkeep. They also sing American hymns and sharing a potluck meal of "cold pork and chicken, pilhis, bananas... [and] pumpkin pie."


Want to add a little island flavor to your Thanksgiving meal? Check out these pilhi recipes.