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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving

Mentioned it before, that when you move to another country and intend to stay there permanently, there's a lot of the old world you have to let go. Sometimes consciously, but not always: it mostly just happens, as you immerse yourself in the new. But not everything need be discarded. Had an american friend who'd moved the other way, became a UK citizen. The only thing she ever admitted to missing was Thanksgiving. So one year - turned out to be my last year, though none of us knew that - she decided to gather her friends, her friends and their kids, and to prepare for us all a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, served with grace and a tiny measure of solemnity. We were not strangers to the turkey - it's what's for christmas, after all - but all of its marvellous accoutrements and paraphernalia were exotic to us. Yams and marshmallow, succotash, bread stuffing with apple, roasted chestnuts, pumpkin and squash, a long parade of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.

Here is a curious thing I have found: holidays in america - Thanksgiving, 4th July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day - these are all rather more meaningful to americans than the british equivalents, where a holiday is nothing more than a day off work. Which is to say, without appearing too solemn or heavy-handed, that people here, those of my acquaintance certainly, they all stop to think about the day and what it means? About what is being celebrated, and why? Except Labor Day, which really is just a day off work. But the others are marked, marked and occasioned, by a measure of ritual in which everyone participates. Not quite "holy days", but more so here than there?

Thanksgiving is a day of family feast, and of giving thanks. It is also my favorite of these american holidays, since it arrived so quickly, and so fittingly, just days after footfall. It arrived at precisely the moment I had everything to be thankful for: for being here; for being with her, and being with them. And so each year that passes I give thanks anew for all that is important to me, and many things that aren't.

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