As Britons in a foreign country, we feel most foreign when everyone around us is engaged in something we don’t do in the UK. This isn’t to say we feel excluded; it’s just that when Independence Day and Thanksgiving come around, we can feel slightly fraudulent for wanting to join in. We don’t have that personal history that fills such celebrations with meaning for us – our parents and teachers told us about them, but as they were not part of our heritage, the detail they went into was limited. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a culture that has grown up with them and what do we do? Like the good non-citizens we are, we throw ourselves into them.
There’s not a huge deal to say about what happens on Thanksgiving here, even though there is a huge deal to be said about why it is celebrated. Really it seems to be like Christmas but without the present-buying, stockings, terrible television re-runs and Christmas tree. Thanks to some wonderful friends we sat down to roast turkey with all the trimmings, although I think it might be at least another year before we can bring ourselves to include the traditional marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes on our Thanksgiving table. Ditto the pumpkin pie; it sounds very cosy and comforting in theory, but in reality most of the ones I’ve tried resemble a spicy version of the blancmange-textured creations redolent of British school dinners circa 1980 (and probably still today, despite Jamie Oliver’s best efforts). I do realise this is down to individual taste, but even our indiscriminate omnivorous two-year-old turned his nose up.
It felt like Christmas Day, in that there was a certain magic about drinking champagne and indulging in six hours’ constant eating on a weekday. Our children enjoyed playing together, doing treasure hunts and racing about like crazed dynamos (once the sugar from the chocolate cake had kicked in). At one point they had to be sedated with half an hour of Peppa Pig. But mainly I loved Thanksgiving for its very appealing central premise of a day for giving thanks. I love the way that the Americans devote one day, even if it is only once a year, to being thankful for what they have. Perhaps that’s what makes it an inclusive celebration, and why I felt very thankful for having the opportunity to be part of it.