Thanksgiving, that most problematic of American holidays – whether you want to believe that the pilgrims cosied up with the natives over a turkey dinner and didn’t violently slaughter them and steal their land. Consumerism, Black Friday sales and an obesity epidemic – it’s easy to have fallen out of love with the day.
I “celebrated” my first Thanksgiving in 2000 with the girl who would become my best friend, partner in crime and eventually be the Maid of Honour at my wedding. It was a simple affair, nothing like the over the top displays you see in American movies. We shared a can of “Manwich” procured from a local deli with a modest American section and she taught me to make Sloppy Joe’s for the first time. She’d been in the country for less than 3 months and whilst I wouldn’t say she was homesick, she was definitely a fish out of water. This was a bonding exercise, a chance to start new traditions and root her in her new home whilst honouring her old one.
What once had been a day to celebrate new traditions, became a tradition in its own right. One that celebrated friendship, hope and new beginnings. One that bonded us, gave us a sense of place and belonging. One where sharing a simple meal with whatever pennies we could scrape together. This wasn’t the lavish excess of a family Christmas, nor was it the drunken hedonism of New Year – this was quieter, more humble.
As life moves on, rituals change and take on new meanings. Now the simple gathering and the can of sauce is replaced by new friends and a “pot-luck” approach. None of us are American, nor are we really commemorating the Pilgrims of old. Instead we mark another year passed, another year survived, against all odds. Brexit, Trump, North Korea, ACTUAL NAZIS WITH TIKI TORCHES. I mean, I’m sorry to break the cosy vibes but WHAT THE SHITTING FUCK IS GOING ON?
The world is a terrifying place.
But we are thankful, thankful and hopeful for so many things.
We’re thankful for friends moving closer, for new jobs and new loves. We’ve celebrated engagements and weddings. We’ve mourned lost loves, failing bodies and fallen comrades. We’ve laughed ourselves silly playing board games, checking in with each other when our mental health has been ropey and celebrating our little victories. December, and especially Christmas, is often seen as a time for families. This day in November gives us a chance to enjoy each other’s company before family commitments and events overtake us.
And we eat, good lord we eat. Just as the Sloppy Joe’s marked one era, so green bean casserole marks another. Whether it’s roast turkey, cornbread and all the trimmings (last year) or (this year) ribs, buffalo wings and mac n cheese, we each bring a dish according to our budget and skill. And we will give thanks, for surviving another year on this miserable little island and for friendship, new and old.
So as the night’s get longer, why not call up that friend who you’ve been meaning to catch up with, invite them over and cook, eat and laugh. Hell, order a take away if you must. Just make a little time before Christmas, family and the world overwhelm you, and be thankful.