About the joys of Thanksgiving Day
Last Thursday I sat down to a meal that started with shrimp cocktail, potato crisps with anchovy dip, and cocktail hot dogs.
This was followed by deep fried turkey, smoked turkey, baked ham, traditional stuffing, sausage and cheese stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh cranberry relish, and homemade dinner rolls. For dessert, there was a choice of pumpkin pie, apple pie, or pumpkin and cream cheese roll, and ice cream.
Everything, except for the ice cream, was homemade. It was, as they say, a feast fit for a king. There were 15 people there. Two were friends who had driven across from San Diego, the rest were extended family members, ranging in age from one to 80.
This was Thanksgiving Day, to my mind the most enjoyable and uplifting day in the American calendar. What makes it special, in my opinion, is the lack of commercialism and the fact there is never any need to pick out the perfect gifts for people – or any gifts for that matter. Thanksgiving is simply a happy get-together of family and friends.
It’s also the time of year when much-maligned America puts its best foot forward. Coming home from work on Wednesday I saw a car stopping at a road junction, the driver opened his window and handed what looked like a few dollar bills to a homeless person. The recipient, an elderly man with a long white beard and shabby clothes, is always there, holding a piece of cardboard with the word ‘homeless’. It’s the first time I’ve seen him being given anything.
Two days later I was at a Starbucks. Another homeless guy was standing outside asking politely for money. I gave him the ‘shrapnel’ money I had in my pocket, which didn’t amount to much. Then a customer came out of the restaurant, handed him a hot coffee and a bag with three muffins inside. The man was ecstatic at the show of kindness.
Perhaps people should be just as generous all year round but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the period around Thanksgiving brings out the best in everyone. It is a genuinely enjoyable and relatively stress-free holiday, certainly compared with Christmas.
Traditionally – at least going back to the 20th century – the day involves the three Fs. Food, family, and football. American football, that is. Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have for years hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day and, in recent years, a third match has been added in the evening.
The food can take days of preparation, and everyone who comes along brings some homemade food. Well most people – my contribution amounted to scrutinising the cooking of the turkey while knocking back a couple of beers.
Even the roads department got in on the act. The illuminated information signs on the freeway carried slightly gruesome but effective messages. One said, “Mash your Potatoes, not your Head. Buckle Up’. Then there was the questionable ‘Gobble, Gobble. Go Easy on the Throttle’.
Thanksgiving Day is Turkey Day over here. Unlike the UK, Christmas dinner is usually something other than turkey. In the years I’ve been here for Christmas, I’ve eaten beef stroganoff, ham, lamb, and steak at dinner time.
The general rule on Thanksgiving is that, if anyone is spending the day on their own, then neighbours or friends will make sure they are not alone, they will be invited round or, at the very least, paid a visit. We don’t have a UK equivalent which is a shame. Most UK holidays seem to involve commercialism or religion – or both.
It’s a bit of a pity that the day after Thanksgiving is the awful Black Friday, a mass stampede to the stores to pick up bargains. Sadly, that madness is catching on in Britain too. However, there is one way to avoid it – just don’t go to the shops.
So, Thanksgiving has passed again for another year. It wasn’t without incident of course. The three-year-old and his great grandmother went missing just before the food was served. A search party was organised around the neighbourhood but there was no sign of them. People were getting just a little frantic.
Eventually they were found. In the bedroom closet telling each other ghost stories, Happy Thanksgiving.