Thanksgiving is the best American holiday in terms of time off work and food and family spirit. It’s a day when family and friends gather together around lots, and I mean, LOTS, of homemade traditional food – sweet potato pie with marshmellow topping, mash potatoes, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumkpin pie, and of course there is Turkey and a nut loaf or broccoli casserole for vegetarians.
I have celebrated Thanksgiving over here in Britain a few times with other American friends. Although it’s not the same because it has to be done on a Saturday (no Thursday and Friday off work here in Britain!), and made with British ingredients, it has been nice and for the most part, worth the effort.
One of the most memorable ‘British’ Thanksgivings was spent at our friends’ in Nottingham. Larry is a Jewish American and his wife is British and they used to put on a grand British/American Thanksgiving meal. We were lucky to be part of it and one year I invited a British friend of mine who just did not get the whole ‘being thankful’ part. In addition, after a few glasses, she proceeded to offend Larry (and his entire family) by saying it wasn’t a big deal to be Jewish and why did they have to talk about being Jewish all the time. Jewish Americans tend to make lots of jokes about the Jewish and about being Jewish and my British friend had never been around this before and was, apparently, really annoyed by this so decided to challenge Larry and told him it didn’t matter whether a person is Jewish or not. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was one of those times when you pray for a huge hole to open up beneath you and swallow you up. An argument ensued between my Jewish American friend and my British friend who had apparently never met any Jewish people before in her life. I was mortified. Larry managed to smooth things over and my British friend graciously apologized for being drunk. Well, as my British husband says ‘all things done whilst drunk are pardonable’!
Another year, I invited my American cousin who was in London on a temporary work placement – it was the year I was pregnant with Samuel – and he loved it and I think (I Hope) it made up for his not being at home to celeberate it with his family.
My children understand what Thanksgiving is all about, but since it is not celebrated here, and my efforts to instill Thanksgiving tradition into our family have been sporadic and unsuccessful at times, they do not naturally regard it as being part of their culture. I hope this will change as they get older and i get better at providing them with a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday (or non holiday)! They do understand that it is an important American holiday and my need to recognise and celebrate it.
This year, however, I will not be celebrating Thanksgiving, but rather my 40th birthday which falls two days after Thanksgiving this year (some years it falls on the same day!), by being flown off to Paris on a surprise birthday trip treat planned by my wonderful husband. Au Revoire!