Taxi Driver: So what is this Thanksgiving thing?
Me: It’s an American holiday, started in 1863, where we set aside a day to remember to be thankful for all the good things in our lives. It mark
s the time in the 1600s where the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims survive a really hard winter and they invited them to a meal to thank them.
Taxi Driver: And you all eat the same food?
Me: Well, there are certainly variations, but the centrepiece is turkey and then there’s always potatoes of some sort, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce and heaps of pie for dessert. It’s to re-create that first meal the Native Americans and English Pilgrims had together.
Taxi Driver: Are there gifts?
Me: No. Just family, food and football.
Taxi Driver: Flip me, that’s the perfect holiday. Can we have it too?
My first Thanksgiving outside of the States was two years ago; my first year at Queen’s. I gathered with people who were quickly becoming family and ate and laughed and played games and took photos and made memories. My favorite part, though, was watching my Irish and Northern Irish friends fall in love with the holiday. For them, it was simply a day where people gathered to hug loved ones, eat good food and watch sports. It had nothing to do with shopping or travel hassles or family drama or any of the other things we Americans sometimes associate it with. It was simply, as one said to me, “a truly lovely day.” In that quiet moment, I realized it was my favorite holiday as well.
Today I am hosting my first Thanksgiving without my mother to watchfully help with the turkey. We’re opening our house to friends, family and strangers as I believe any American without a shared table today is welcome at ours. We’ve been planning for weeks, discussing which dish everyone is bringing and the traditions each of the Americans’ families have. For some of the Irish ones, this will be their third Thanksgiving, for some their first.
Wherever you gather, with whomever you gather, may you find peace and thankfulness. If your life is currently a cyclone of pain and chaos, may today bring a hearty meal and a moment of calm. If family is not a happy concept for you, may today bring someone into it who can redefine that. If you find yourself alone, may you find a space at a table today. Above all, may we pause and remember to be thankful.
Because, in my opinion, no talk of Thanksgiving is complete without pop culture references, I leave you with this: one of my favorite clips from West Wing, the one where Charlie learns that he is part of the Bartlet family and CJ discovers the nuances of pardoning a turkey. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmgHiAjSJw0)
- A History of Thanksgiving in 3 Minutes (muscleheaded.wordpress.com)
- 10 Awesome Thanksgiving Fun Facts (kvil.cbslocal.com)
- Why We Eat What We Eat On Thanksgiving (mentalfloss.com)