How wonderful the internet is… I managed to get this awesome information with a shoutout for help via Instagram! So here is the lowdown for us Brits on what all this talk of Thanksgiving is all about… with special thanks to Melissa Rohlfs (you can follow Melissa on her excellent blog A Well-Heeled Life)
First, a disclaimer. I’m no historian. Just a globe-trekking, bargain-loving American wife and momma. I also happen to love Great Britain and Europe and as a result, follow a few British mom bloggers and Instagrammers – including The Frugal Family.
Why? I suppose the same reason I love to travel. I love experiencing how other people live. Seeing what’s the same and what’s different. For all of our differences (religion, race, food, languages), we’re not that different. I delight in the differences and the familiar in other women’s lives: usually feeling sleep-deprived, wishing for a spa day or massage, and looking for time and budget savers in the care and keeping of our families.
Much to my surprise, I was delighted to see a message on a favorite Instagram feed with a question about Thanksgiving.
I’ll do my best to give you curious Brits a quick overview of my favorite American holiday – Thanksgiving.
Why do I love Thanksgiving?
First, I love the sentiment behind it. Gratitude. There are no gifts given or expected. It’s a celebration built around time spent together and a fantastic meal. I think the Thanksgiving meal is like any Sunday dinner in Italy or France. Europeans know the pleasure of a relaxed meal. It’s just that America was built on hustle and drive. We invented the drive- thru meal. It takes an annual holiday for us to collectively take a moment to savor a meal and each other. Ha!
Second, I love that Thanksgiving is inclusive to all Americans. Most holidays are recognized by some, but not all. America is a nation of immigrants. Some people celebrate Easter. Others celebrate Hanukkah. Everyone celebrates Thanksgiving.
A little history lesson. Thanksgiving was declared an official holiday by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. It was established to recognize the Pilgrims, those European settlers who founded the first colonies establishing our country and a feast they shared with the Native Americans. Full disclosure, It wasn’t a rosy start for the pilgrims and they weren’t always so kind to the native peoples. The pilgrims nearly starved to death on several occasions. They also brought many diseases to the native Americans and enslaved others. But the feast we commemorate at Thanksgiving really did happen and we recognize the kindness and generosity of those Native peoples and the strength of those early Settlers who founded our nation. Here’s a link to good synopsis for those who want to know more.
Third, I love the food. The meal is delicious and a celebration of the colors and flavors of Autumn. Most Americans’ thanksgiving meal will reflect their culture or region where they live. For example, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (upper left corner) of the U.S.A. It’s a seafaring community. We’re also famous for our apples. The Thanksgiving table often includes salmon. Stuffing and side dishes often feature mussels, oysters, crabs, and apples. I lived in the Midwest for a few years (smack dab in middle of country). You’d never see seafood on the Thanksgiving table in that part of the country. In the Midwest, many people enjoy dishes featuring corn and pork. I have friends who hail from the Deep South and they serve Mac ‘n Cheese, which is a uniquely southern dish. My Korean-American friend always includes Bulgogi on her table. One of my BFFs from childhood is Mexican-American. His mom always served tamales on the thanksgiving table. Yummmm. We all make it our own.
What: Thanksgiving dinner or supper (the evening meal)
When: 4th Thursday in November
Why: Established as a holiday by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to recognize the Pilgrims, who established the first English colonies, and a feast they shared with Native Americans.
How (we celebrate): – We celebrate with food! The meal is the entire point. A traditional thanksgiving meal must include turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and pie. After that, the meal is totally customizable.
Now, would one of you Brits return the favor and explain to this American why everyone I see on the BBC is wearing those little poppy flowers on their lapels and dresses?
Hey Melissa, I can help with that! What a cultural exchange this has become… #feelingthankful