Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

The First Day of Christmas

Apparently, America has set an official date for the advent of the Christmas season and made sure to inform all relevant parties, including the weather. I woke up this morning to find my dear husband trundling back and forth carrying large boxes and trailing tinsel, while snowflakes flurried from his beard and festive songs blared from the television. Apparently, it is now Yule.

In England, we’re not really sure when Christmas begins. If you ask the supermarkets, they’ll tell you it’s somewhere around May, when there’s empty space on the shelves where the Easter eggs used to be. If you ask the tellybox advertisers, it’s approximately September, when the first twig of holly sneaks into an ad break. If you ask my family, it’s a vague date in mid-December when the panic shopping begins and someone remembers the tree. If you ask me, it’s about December 19, when I suddenly discover I have once again missed the last day of post and won’t be sending any cards. Again.

Consequently, I’ve always found it quite a challenge to get into the Christmas spirit. There’s a tipping point between ‘far too early’ and ‘too late to do things properly’, a single moment when it feels right to have festive feelings. The rest of the time, I’m not entirely sure if it’s Christmas or not – although I do suffer a vague knot of worry throughout December regarding wrapping paper.

In America, on the other hand, Christmas begins as Thanksgiving ends, making the latter holiday a handy indicator for the former. As soon as you’re done shovelling turkey into your mouth, it’s time to send someone out to the garage to fetch the tree and start checking Amazon for gift-giving bargains, while the snow begins to dutifully fall.

This is a regimen I wholeheartedly approve of: I can now schedule my season, confident in the knowledge I haven’t got it wrong. Although I will inevitably still fail to send out Christmas cards in time.

It also gives the cat a full month to steal all the baubles, a challenge she accepted less than a minute after the tree was finished.

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Giving Thanks Properly

We don’t have a holiday for giving thanks in the UK. It’s probably because we were never saved from starvation by the natives of a country we just arrived in (although I find that hard to believe, considering we once had the largest empire in the history of the world and aren’t known for packing anything more useful than a change of undercrackers and a teabag), but it does seem a shame.

Company potatoes and yummy stuffing sadly out of shot

I experienced my first Thanksgiving this week, and came to understand its value. Before we ate the meal that every one of us helped to prepare, we shared what we were thankful about this year. I think I can easily get behind a holiday that’s about honest gratitude and happy greed.

In my part of the world, turkey is reserved for Christmas. Not having roast potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, swede, peas and pigs-in-blankets was a strange experience, because I associate a turkey roast with those accoutrements, but I can’t claim to have pigged with any less vigour. I am a sworn advocate of company potatoes and my sister-in-law’s cranberry dressing was better than any I’ve had from a Christmas jar.

The dish I was most suspicious of was yams with marshmallows. Mixing sweet and savoury is perfectly normal over here, but in England we reserve the sweet taste for relishes, sauces and, well, dessert. I like sweet potatoes, but brown sugar and the white things you float in hot chocolate? That can’t be right.

As it happened, it was the first dish I was asked to help with, so I had a vested interest in liking it. I was tasked with slicing the yams while my six-year-old niece sprinkled the sugar over each layer and liberally in and around her mouth. My conclusion? Strange, but not nearly so strange as I expected, and rather nice for all that.

The desserts were divine: my grandmother-in-law makes a sour cream and raisin pie unlike any other, I’m told, and I’m prepared to believe it, while pecan pie has always been a favourite and pumpkin pie is less disconcerting than I expected. All of which were served with a whipped cream I made under the supervision of my niece, who diligently tasted it at each stage of the preparation. It mixed well with the brown sugar.

I ate until I felt sick, then napped a while and came back for more, then slept for the night and woke up for more. But, though the food was wonderful, the holiday itself was even more so, and I can’t help thinking they’re missing out back home. I think we’d benefit from the chance to tell people we’re grateful to have them near, and to hear them tell us the same, and to spend time working together and enjoying each other’s company. Especially if that was followed by company potatoes.