Hi, here's Jo, writing from England an the day before American Thanksgiving, so I have to address it, don't I? (I've used a pic of me and Andrea, because I'm definitely thankful for the Wenches, and also for my recent cataract operations which mean I don't need those glasses anymore. Yay! If there are typos here it's because my eyes are still getting used to the new order and I have some double vision on the screen. Getting better every day, though.)
Oh, another Wenchly thing. If you're on Facebook, check out our page and our new logo. We'd like to know what you think.
We don't have a Thanksgiving day here. I lived for decades in Canada, which celebrates Thanksgiving, but in October and not with quite such fervour as in the States.
What is Thanksgiving?That might seem like a dumb question — Pilgrims, first settlements, turkey etc. But I was listening to a radio programme where they said the origins are debatable, and when I checked, it's true(You canread about the issue here.)
It probably came about after the Revolution, drawing on a long old world tradition of days of thanksgiving for victories and such. A day to celebrate the new country.
Perfectly reasonable, but what I like about American Thanksgiving is that it's morphed away from politics and violent victory and become a family celebration. Plus, unlike Christmas, it's escaped commercialization. Sure people spend on food and travel, but not usually on cards and gifts and it's also just one day.
Christmas can drag on over weeks, what with home parties, work parties, school activities and trying to get around as many family locales as is humanly possible. Add to that the ads, jingles and stuff in all the shops starting in November and it's overwhelming. And of course Christmas is religious at heart, and so not truly for all.
Thankgiving is non-denominational. It belongs to no religion or race, so all can celebrate without ambiguity. It's also particularly family oriented. If people throw work Thanksgiving dinners I don't want to know about it. I gather schools do do a bit of pilgrim and turkey stuff, but not too much, I hope. It's a day for family to gather to eat together, along with friends. If there's no family around, then friends will gather.
(I chose that image simply because it's so celebratory.)
Gathering to eat — feasting — is a good thing with deep roots in the human psyche. On the radio program American said that there was so much food at a Thanksgiving dinner because people tried to make sure that everyone had their favourite. That's great too.
Britain doesn't have a family oriented day of thankgiving and I think we should. We have November 5th, which began as thanksgiving for the king and parliament not being blown up, but that's too political, and it also has religious connections that linger. Someone recently mentioned that they don't pay any attention to it because it's anti-Catholic. We hold our history close and long over here! There are still a few grudges held in Lancashire and Yorkshire about the Wars of the Roses, and if anyone mentioned our great cathedrals, my mother would say, "It should be ours." We were Catholic and she was still protesting the Reformation.
So I think we should institute a thanksgiving holiday here in Britian on June 21st when everyone is naturally feeling jolly about the beginning of summer and when the day is longest, which in the north of Britain can be very long indeed. A day on which we could feast by daylight until very late. No history or religion about it. No memories of violence. In fact I'd link it not to family but to location, using the idea of street parties to bring neighbours together and forge stronger communities. A sharing meal with the emphasis on simple food and drink that everyone can afford, and sharing good memories. A good idea?
Are you from America? If so, what do you think about my comments about your Thanksgiving? Do you enjoy the holiday? What would you change about it if you could?
What about Canada? Is it an important feast day for you?
If you're from elsewhere, do you have a national thanksgiving feast? If so, tell us about it. If you could institute one, what would it be about and how would it be celebrated?
If you are in a Christmas mood already, I have boxed together some Christmas novellas with other goodies. You can find out more here.