Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday when we watch parades and American football before eating an enormous feast of turkey, ‘stuffing,’ mashed potatoes and gravy, and then chase it down with great slabs of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.
Recently I read how the original feast was perhaps 600 calories. Nowadays... the dietary nannies tell us... the Thanksgiving meal might tip the scale at 5 to 10 times as many calories.
That news almost makes me want to cut back. Almost.
Americans love this holiday. So do Canadians, who celebrate it on the second Monday in October.
We North Americans have done our level best to try and export the holiday, but with very limited success.
Historian Thomas Fleming tells how our British cousins opened up Westminster Abbey on November 26, 1942 during World War Two for a special Thanksgiving Day service for American servicemen and women, the first-time ever the cathedral had been used in that way.
Alas, while the 'Special Relationship' between the U.S. and the UK continues, Thanksgiving remains limited to the colonies.
Part of it, of course, is the holiday's backstory.
I grew up with an elaborate and cherished myth that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated when the Native Americans invited the Puritan Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock over for potluck around harvest time.
Every year historians, journalists and other skeptics chip away at the myth.
One of the latest revelations involves a Spanish explorer named Pedro Menendez de Aviles who dined on bean soup with Native Americans in Florida some 56 years before the more famous meal at Plymouth Rock.
In time no doubt we’ll learn that Leif Ericson in fact broke bread with Native Americans in Labrador around 1000 AD and that the Basques shared their catch of salted cod with the Natives of Newfoundland well before the Columbian Exchange.
Nonetheless, Americans are largely undaunted by the myth-busting.
Here’s why: the holiday as we now celebrate it is just so beautiful. And I mean that sincerely. Notwithstanding the sitcom version of Thanksgiving in which everyone is uncomfortable, irritable, or pissy, I can honestly say that I've never experienced the holiday in that way. Ever. And I'll bet I spent a good 15 Thanksgivings as a stray that friends or second cousins felt obliged to ask over for the holiday.
Here's how Thanksgiving typically goes: families and friends gather. An enormous meal is prepared. We talk about what it is that we have to be grateful for at the dinner table. We feast. Many of us offer prayers of gratitude. We loosen our belts and take a nap. Then we go home with leftovers in cheap plastic containers.
For my part, I’m grateful to you my readers. Thanks for putting up with my rants. Thanks for disregarding my too frequent errors of spelling, grammar and logic. Thanks for leaving comments. Thanks for suggesting topics and sending examples of cause marketing from where you're from. Thanks to my non-American readers for tolerating during those moments... (like now?)... when I become too exuberant in my Americanism. And, thanks for practicing cause marketing wherever you are!
And, happy birthday Kate!