This week Americans will mark Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. I love it for many reasons. I love that it is a celebration, a big family holiday that involves a feast with no religious overtones. I think there should be more of these. Gatherings of friends. Opportunities to meet around a dinner table. Groups of people, larger than you would normally have at a dinner party if it wasn’t a holiday. I live in a tiny one-BR flat in the UK, so I’m a bit paralyzed when it comes to hosting a big T-day dinner. (Where T in my world stands for Tofurky, not turkey. Yeah, that does interfere with the whole turkey day thing a bit.)

I’ve had various experiences as an expat in the UK. It turns out that the English are actually reasonably pro-Thanksgiving. There’s a T-day service at St. Paul’s in London. I’d go, but it would interfere with the other things I have to do that day, sadly.

It’s funny, how the American holidays take on new meaning when you’re not in America anymore. At this precise moment, I’d give anything for green bean casserole. Brits may think it’s disgusting, but I’d take some if it was offered to me. I’d give my right arm at the this time for a vegetable casserole based on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and French’s fried onions. I know it’s not logical to like these things, it’s like how I love Velveeta and Cheez-its. It’s not rational. It’s tradition. (Cue the guy from Fiddler on the Roof singing.) I’m unabashedly American and my life is complicated. And I miss American holiday food.


14 responses to “Thanksgiving

  1. Not entirely devoid of religious overtones. From Presidential proclamations of Thanksgiving:

    “Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation….” (George Washington)

    ” I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (Abraham Lincoln)

    “I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-ninth day of November, 1934, as a Day of Thanksgiving for the people of the Nation. Thus to set aside in the autumn of each year a day on which to give thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of life is a wise and reverent custom, long cherished by our people. It is fitting that we should again observe this custom.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

    “I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2000, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all the people of the United States to assemble in their homes, places of worship, and community centers to share the spirit of fellowship and prayer and to reinforce the ties of family and community; to express heartfelt thanks to God for our many blessings….” (Bill Clinton)

    • Yes Mer, but there’s nothing that requires people to celebrate separately if they have different faiths: a Thanksgiving table could easily seat Christians, Jews, Muslims, and non-religious people together for dinner and although they may give thanks to the greater power in different ways, they could do it together and as part of the same ritual. This is in stark contrast to what would happen if you tried to put such a group together at Christmas, for example.

  2. > Brits may think it’s disgusting

    Not necessarily, NHAH! How’s it made?

  3. I too, LOVE Thanksgiving! I picked up my Gent and another girl coming in from London on Friday and we started talking about Turkey Day on the way up. She had been in the States before for Thanksgiving and she was going on about how great “green marshmallow salad” was. About “how disgusting it looked, but how great it tasted”. I had to laugh, because I think the exact same thing πŸ™‚

  4. Well put. Thanksgiving in the UK can make you feel more “not at home” than usual. Especaially when you can’t get your three-bean salad and creamed corn.

  5. It is too bad that you have things to do on Thursday, you would be more than welcome to come to my house for a little green bean casserole.

  6. I’ve just put the Pond Parleys post up with a picture of the truly-revolting green bean casserole. How Americans can make fun of brussels sprouts when you eat that muck. Ugh!

  7. I think that there is no reason whatever that you couldn’t fill out the table with all sorts of different folks and be fine. I don’t know any Jews who wouldn’t be willing to be thankful, and my friend Dembo, who celebrates Ramadan, the Hajj, etc. would be as gracious in my house as I would be in his.

    I sorta like the religious overtones myself, though.

  8. Green bean casserole doesnt have to be fully-processed and revolting. Although I have a father with enough forsight to bring some French’s onions, when he visited, I made a “from scratch” version last year that was pretty tasty (and well received by the UK table!)

    Sweet potato casserole (with brown sugar and pecan topping, not marshmallow) is now a requsted item as an side effect of that dinner as well!

    One thing I look forward to at Thanksgiving is being able to eat a whole sidedish-sized portion of stuffing (Father also brought Bob Evans sausage meat!) instead of the teaspoon usally allotted at British dinner tables! Yum!

  9. I knew what you meant and I agree fully; I’m just noting that it’s never been devoid of religious overtones – it’s just not specific about the religion.

    I thought you’d rather enjoy Lincoln’s remembrance of Americans in faraway places.

  10. You know what I’m doing on Thanksgiving? Cleaning the flat before my landlord’s flat inspection on Friday.

    Oh well – at least I got to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with friends a few weeks ago.

  11. Good post, I agree totally. One reason I havent done thanksgiving for so long in the UK is because it just reinforces all the things I miss that arent here (ie family). This year we have some Americans coming so it will be better, but trying to have a ‘special’ meal with a bunch of Brits just means you’re having a giant roast dinner at an awkward time for them. Mike also explains the American in Britain thing well, over at Pond Parleys.

  12. It’s the same reason I like Christmas pudding (though it doesn’t taste very nice) and wedding cake (ditto, with over-sweet icing). All to do with connotation.

  13. (Adding on very late, I know, but just found you)

    Try pumpkin ravioli with butter and sage sauce with a light sprinkle of nutmeg for T day if you are veggie. It really works well.

    And I can’t stand that green bean casserole and I’m American. Blech.

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