We used to be immune to Thanksgiving.
When we first moved to America two years ago, we thought Thanksgiving was a quaint celebration. We appreciated the focus on gratitude, but noticed that Thanksgiving weirdly diminished the festivities of Christmas. Significantly, though, both children have the same week off school so, while most of America drove or flew across the country to visit relatives, we were able to take advantage of the time to explore somewhere new. We honoured Thanksgiving in our own way, wherever we were, by telling each other what we were grateful for over dinner, whether it was pizza or curry.
This year was different because we spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with American friends. This meant that in the few days before the Big Day, we carried on with our normal routines and bumped into familiar people. We discovered that the holiday spirit that’s associated with Christmas in Britain flourishes around Thanksgiving in America. There are collections for the poor, joyful encouragements to have a Happy Thanksgiving, and the grumpy busy-ness of over-full supermarkets. It’s Christmas without the lights, decorations, or presents.
And then there was the meal itself. At first sight it looked very similar to the traditional British Christmas dinner: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, Brussels sprouts. Oh, how we were fooled! In reality, the meal was as similar to a British Christmas dinner as chicken cacciatore is to chicken korma. There may have been a slight overlap in ingredients, but the flavour and experience were very different. Instead of being roasted, the potatoes were mashed. There were no parsnips, or chipolatas wrapped in bacon. The Brussels sprouts were served with bacon instead of chestnuts. The stuffing was made from cornbread. There was a dish of shallots in a creamy sauce and a relish made of cranberries and pecans. And, most surprisingly, there was a plate of mashed sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows. It was a gastronomic feast.
The whole holiday was about gratitude, family, and sharing, with barely a hint of commercialism.
We’re no longer immune to Thanksgiving.