Let me get the apologies out of the way first: I’m sorry to have to tell you but I am an American. You can see how well I’ve acculturated as I’ve learned to apologise for something I had no choice in. Anyway, let’s talk turkey about Thanksgiving, and just why we colonials–my Canadian kin included–persist in celebrating this holiday no matter where on the planet (or indeed in outer space) we end up.
As an American in Britain, one of the hardest things to let go of in my native identity is celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that’s hard to explain to British audiences. It’s not blockbuster worthy, despite being featured in literally dozens of (mostly terrible) films. It’s a quiet yet intense annual experience for roughly 350 million people. Some of us dread it, some of us live for it. No matter which camp you come from, though, it’s rather a shock to move to another country where the fourth Thursday in November is just another day–a truly surreal experience.
Personally, I align with the ‘live for it’ camp. TMI: I had a terrible childhood. Every other holiday, be it Christmas or my birthday, was a (metaphorical) warzone. I have no happy holiday-based memories whatsoever–except for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was the one day a year where the adults in my life were definitely given the day off work. It was the one day a year that was packed full of family who put down their dramas and grudges temporarily for the sake of having a happy, peaceful day. It was the one day a year where the only thing that mattered was cooking and eating and publicly declaring that for which you were thankful. In the earliest years of my life, my expressions of thanks were often for the local churches and charities that provided gigantic food parcels to those of us in extreme poverty (my family included).
I no longer have any family (casual bombshell!), but this is precisely why Thanksgiving is so important to me. I vividly remember my father’s last Thanksgiving; I was nine years old and it was my happiest Thanksgiving. I’m smiling as I write this thinking about how much he put into it, knowing it would be his last Thanksgiving. He died eight months later from cancer. Anyway, my friends are my family now and having them with me, making those memories, letting go of any pettiness or stress, and just tucking into an enormous feast and saying out loud that we care for each other and appreciate what we have–what more could a person ever want in life?
So my British friends–needle us Yanks about our culture 364 days of the year if you will. But please, oh please, when your American mates ask you to join in their Thanksgiving celebrations, do it. Let go and give in–it’s the best day of the year. PS: Make sure you wear elasticated trousers.