Four hundred years ago in the south of England, a small group of people stood shivering on the sea shore, waving at a sailing ship as it made its way out of the harbour and into the rough seas. “Yeah, bye. Have a lovely time. Send us a postcard, yeah?“
“Right,” said the people, turning to go home. “That’s another load of religious wingnuts off our backs. Get the kettle on.”
So. Thanksgiving. Basically all our fault. The biggest annual holiday here in the US traces its origins to a 1621 celebration by the Plymouth Pilgrims to give thanks for a good harvest. Lincoln later used the feast day to foster unity between north and south, and finally Roosevelt made Thanksgiving a national holiday to help boost the economy during the Depression; the day after Thanksgiving has become known as ‘Black Friday’ when shops open at ridiculously early hours to encourage spending to get the economy out of the red and into the black (a bit like the Boxing Day sales back home but with pepper spray).
Families travel thousands of miles across the US to get together at Thanksgiving and eat turkey. It’s the one day of the year when it is permissible to wear elasticated trousers. I myself wore a pair of pajama bottoms that could pass for joggers in a bad light. I ate so much yesterday that I am still having difficulty standing up straight. I fear for stretch marks but I’m too scared to look.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with a family I have got to know very well during my year here. And it was a moving experience. We sat round the table, heaving with food, and each explained what we’d had to be thankful for this year. It brought home to me very strongly just how friendly and welcoming and kind Americans can be to strangers. And it made me determined to take what I have learnt back with me when I head home for Christmas. With one thing and another, my family has a lot to be thankful for this year. And when we sit round the table on Christmas Day, we shall mirror this wonderful American tradition and thank God and each other for the blessings we have had.
Yeah, and you thought I’d just mock, didn’t you?
Happy Thanksgiving x