What I'll be doing on Thanksgiving
It's a week before Thanksgiving and what have I done to prepare? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
When I moved to England nine years ago, I quickly realized one of the best benefits was Thanksgiving. Or rather, the lack of it. It's not that I've always hated Thanksgiving, but when I found myself living in a country that doesn't celebrate the last Thursday in November as a special day of thanks feasting, I realized that I couldn't care less about celebrating the day.
I gave up turkey long before I moved here, but I always found a suitable main dish to serve. (Here's an example.) But I'm happy not to be forced to do that every year. I'd rather reserve all that effort for Christmas, when my family are all here.
It was a bit of a revelation for me to see people going about their normal business on that day—going to work, shopping, with all the stores open and absolutely nothing to set the holiday apart from any other day. I realized that we don't have to celebrate some made-up holiday. We too can go on about our business, or even better, find an off-season rate at a B&B or cottage for the long weekend, since my husband is one of the few who do get the day off.
Many American friends here celebrate on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, inviting both American and British friends to experience the holiday. I've been to quite a few of these parties, and they're lots of fun, but I don't really think of them as traditional Thanksgiving meals, especially since no one gets sick. When I was growing up, we often spent Thanksgiving evening at the emergency room, as someone invariably got food poisoning. Thank God I never really liked turkey—who does, anyway?—so I never ate enough of the tainted bird to become ill. Thus I was usually the designated driver, toting first one, then another victim to the local hospital. (Plus, I was the only one not watching football or asleep in the La-Z-Boy.)
Something about trichinosis and tryptophan is a deadly combination.
Here in England, on the fourth Thursday in November you'll see no parades in the morning, no American football blaring from the telly, and no Wal-Mart shootings as Black Friday commences. I'll admit, the parades were fun, but there's no way to watch parades when you have a full meal to prepare in time for late lunch/early dinner.
Then it's over too quickly, and you have to figure out how to squeeze all those leftovers into your refrigerator—try doing that with a European-sized fridge.
I remember one of our last Thanksgiving meals that involved turkey. We were in Madison, Wisconsin, and most of our friends were grad students. We invited them over for a home-cooked feast, and though by then I'd sworn off turkey, my husband wanted to serve a smoked turkey to show the foreign students what a "real" Thanksgiving was like. It turned out the foreign students thought the American-sized feast was way too much. The Germans insisted we all put on our coats and take a long walk after the meal. We never served turkey again.
So, in the spirit of giving thanks, let me just acknowledge my gratitude for a day of no feasting, no dead birds, and no fake gratitude while we all wait for the Black Friday sales to start. Instead I'll be walking my dog in the woods, giving thanks for a perfectly ordinary day.