November – question time!

We’re poorly again. Did I already mention that? Ours is The House of Much Lethargy and Phlegm. At least the cat isn’t sneezing so much today. Jay wrote a nifty little haiku-type poem for our post today, but I’m experiencing a sudden rush of energy so thought I’d post with more gusto and save the poem for a real emergency.

We reckon that this (self-) enforced month of daily posting could be a great opportunity to tap into the IVP knowledge collective on a number of burning issues, hot topics and, well….things we’d like to know about. (All suggestions of things-we-might-like-to-know-about-but-don’t-realise-yet are most welcome.)

Today, we’d like to know about Thanksgiving. Let me explain….

I’m feeling rather disappointed that we had to miss our local Bonfire Night celebrations on Saturday due to illness (mine). Strictly speaking, Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes, is celebrated on 5th November, but large, organised fireworks displays usually happen on the nearest weekend. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic fed up with religious persecution by the King. In 1605, he and his mates plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill lots of people, including the King. The plot was foiled and fires were lit to celebrate the fact that the King was safe. Guy Fawkes was executed for treason.  Us Brits still celebrate this by burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and letting off fireworks on 5th November, though most of us only have the vaguest idea why we even do it and couldn’t care less – it’s a fun night out. This site will fill you in on the details if you’re really interested!

Bonfire Night has always felt special to me. My birthday is on November 6th, so as a kid, there was a lot of excitement crammed into two days. The fireworks that heralded the coming of my birthday always made me feel extra special, like they were somehow for me. Often I was allowed to stay up late and watch out of my bedroom window to see if I could catch any neighbourhood displays that went on past my bedtime. I LOVE fireworks.

So you can see why I’m sad to have missed it, right? To cheer myself up, and to do something nice for jay, who is not the most patient of patients, I’m considering embracing Thanksgiving as a replacement celebration. Well, so many of you guys seem to get so excited about it, I figure it can’t hurt. Plus, learning something new about the Americans can’t be a bad thing, right?

So, do tell me, why is Thanksgiving special to you? How do you celebrate it? What are your traditions? What does it all mean, dude? (Vegetarian food suggestions extra welcome).

vee xxx

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sn on November 3, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    thanksgiving is a problematic holiday, framed to children as a celebration of a collaborative dinner between benevolent pilgrims and not-persecuted native people. ugh.

    it’s special because it’s a holiday celebrated around a big family meal. it can be loaded because, well, it brings family together around a big family meal.

    the great thing about thanksgiving food is that if you skip the turkey, the traditional and seasonal foods–stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, squash soup, cranberry sauce, etc. can all be done deliciously without meat. (there’s always tofurky, but i’ve only heard horrific things…)

    Reply

  2. As sn said above, there are a lot of problematic political and historical implications that come along with Thanksgiving.

    However, it’s very important to me, because it was always a time when we got together, all of us, and celebrated, well. Being together, a, but also what we did have, and what we were lucky (thankful) for, instead of focusing on the negative like I, at least, am so prone to do the rest of the year.

    We haven’t had one with the large extended family since people started dying off and my aunt went crazy and homophobic, but I really do miss them. We do still get together with family, and J and I hosted it ourselves for the first time two years ago. That was fantastic.

    And the food is DELICIOUS.

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  3. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival…a time when the white people who came to America learned how to reap food from the land courtesy of the Native “Americans” before driving them further and further west and killing them with our fancy weapons and diseases.

    Oh, sorry, did that sound bad? 😉

    Now it’s more of a family feasting time where we give thanks for all the good things we have. So um, I’m cool with that part of it. And no table I sit at feels complete without turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry jello mold (as in a molded shape, not actual mold, ew).

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  4. I have to be honest–I like it b/c it gives me 4 extra days off to go on a long vacation. I’ve spent 3 Thanksgivings in South East Asia eating anything but turkey.

    However, if we’re stateside, I love spending it with K’s extended family which always includes copious amounts of alcohol and sometimes ‘smoke’-infested-guitar-playing-singalongs. Former hippies. They’re fun people.
    The few times I’ve spent this holiday with my own family usually ended with me either crying or practically stabbing my eye out with a fork.

    So to recap:
    Thanksgiving in SEA or with K=Good.
    Thanksgiving with blood fam=loss of eyesight.

    Overall Grade A for the food, fam and travel opps.

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  5. Posted by nutella on November 3, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Despite the warm fuzzy pilgrims and indians share a meal beginning that many of us Americans were taught about in grade school, Thanksgiving has now come to mean a time of family togetherness, a huge meal, and then the next day, scary raving ass crack of dawn psycho deal shopping for Christmas/Holidays. Oh, and I suppose American Football, though not for my family.

    In my extended family (usually around 14 people for dinner), the day includes a very large meal centered around a roast turkey. However, all the traditional side dishes that we serve are meat free. We serve mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes (no marshmallows on top in my house), sauteed green beans with slivered almonds, butternut squash soup, apple and chestnut stuffing (it’s made from soggy breadcrumbs and we cook it outside of the turkey), cranberry sauce, and then various desserts which typically include pumpkin flan, apple pie, and chocolate pudding pie.

    We’re a friendly jovial group and there’s often loud conversation and at some point we tend to make mention of all the things that we’re grateful for. We usually eat at about 4pm, so standard lunch and dinner don’t really happen.

    The shopping on “Black Friday” is a growing American tradition. Most stores open very early (4am even) and have huge sales. It’s seen as the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season. I avoid shopping malls at all costs on that day, the crowds are insanity.

    I spent the fall 1999 semester in Oxford, UK and hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 11 in our flat. None of the butchers would sell me a fresh turkey because they were still fattening them up for Christmas. So I ended up with a frozen one from Sainsburys. I had to defrost it in the kitchen sink for 2 days. We couldn’t find mini-marshmallows (some people put them on top of the mashed sweet potatoes) or tinned cranberry sauce anywhere so had to have one of my flatmates parents bring them from the US the week before. We had 5 brits at dinner and everyone had a great time.

    Reply

  6. Thanksgiving has always been about food for us. It is like a dress rehearsal for Christmas- without the added anxiety of having to buy gifts or decorate. We try to focus less on the origins of the holiday- as they aren’t exactly pleasant- but more about the being thankful bit. I really enjoy taking a moment and counting the blessings. Even if the “blessing” is just that we survived hell.

    I would like to know more about boxing day and where it came from and what it means to celebrate it.

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  7. For me it is about family and food. I am raising Bliss to know about native americans and the truth of what we did to them and letting the day be a day we are thankful and also a day we commit to helping others and trying to change things like that.

    I love cooking and it is my favorite Holiday to cook for because I am a pie maker and love to make the turkey and the side dishes and pies. I always cook for a ton of people but as yet we do not have a ton of people in our chosen family but we hope to expand that after we move.

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  8. Posted by wishinghopingpraying on November 3, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! I think I like it because it isn’t a gift-centerd holiday. It’s just about family, friends and a great meal. I bake pies from scratch every year and love to see the table set with the fine china and the candles glowing. I love hearing what everyone is most thankful for that year. To me, it’s a really special day to enjoy eachother before the holiday madness begins. There are lots of vegetarian recipes for Thanksgiving, I never like I am missing out. Email me if you’d like any of them.

    Reply

  9. Thanksgiving in Canada comes about a month earlier than in the US (due to harvest season being earlier here). We celebrate and “give thanks for” (in a secular way) the abundance of food in the harvest season. Celebrating the harvest is something the indigenous people of Canada have been doing for centuries and European settlers took on this tradition. I don’t ever recall being taught the American story of a pilgrim potluck with the locals.

    I celebrate the huge feast and the day off work. My mother went into labour with me over Thanksgiving dinner so I give thanks to that moment as my first act of vegetarianism.

    I enjoy a Tofurky on Thanksgiving – it’s a turkey-less turkey roast. We usually pair that with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The highlight, for me, is the pumpkin pie.

    Enjoy! Let us know how you celebrate!

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  10. i will write about thanksgiving. but i am going to do it on an upcoming day as a NaBloPoMo post, mmkay? 🙂

    Reply

  11. Oh, thanksgiving. Everyone else said it well.

    I will only add that Jews on Thanksgiving get together (often with the same folks we see for the New Year, and Chanukah, and Passover), stare at the turkey, and are a little nonplussed that there are no blessings.

    Reply

  12. Posted by tbean on November 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    As an atheist, I like t-day because it is a holiday all about FOOD and EATING! That is one holiday I can really get down with. And the turkey is definitely the LEAST interesting part of the meal—it’s all about the mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, etc. etc. etc.

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  13. To be honest, it’s kind of like the Brits’ Christmas dinner (my husband is a Brit so I know). A lot of Americans don’t do up Christmas dinner the way you guys do. We have Thanksgiving for that. It’s just an opportunity to pig out, get drunk and fight with your family. After 20+ years of this, we have finally realized it actually sucks big time (in our family). We finally got rid of the extended family and just tend to go to a British pub (in the SF Bay Area), eat a Thanksgiving buffet (Brit-styled) and drink far too many Guinnesses. Much better!

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  14. Posted by CD & SP on November 4, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Being from the fine Commonwealth of Massachusetts itself, we were taught pretty much from birth about the Pilgrims and the Massasoit Indians, Squanto–the whole nine yards. I even went to Plymouth Rock on a field trip when I was 4-years-old! Anyway, it mostly means LOTS of food, long walks and talks with family members, and more food and a long weekend. Oh–and the beginning of x-mas shopping of course! It’s all disgustingly commercial now.

    I remember my Thanksgiving meal in England. It was…interesting. Nice try, though, and I did appreciate it. Guy Fawkes Day was definitely more amusing!

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  15. Posted by Att on November 4, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Thanksgiving, growing up in the South where traditions are centuries long, was probably one of the axis holidays.
    My great-grandmother, the matriarch of our family, has always held Thanksgiving under her wings. There was gallons of pinto beans, moist turkey and brisket, and enough iced tea to flood the Colorado.
    But since Mama C, as we call her, is horribly homophobic (and a twinge racist) Fil, JT and I have not joined in on the Thanksgiving festivities. Not last year and definitely not this year. So now, Thanksgiving is really just our day to be a family away from the rest of the world, to enjoy really good food and have all the leftovers to ourselves. Muahahaha.

    Also, on a side note, I used to date a boy from Essex and he used to go on and on about Guy Fawkes – I had no idea what it was! Of course I learned when I started high school, but I thought he was a bit nutty. =D

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  16. Although I feel that the origins of Thanksgiving are important, I feel that it’s more important to know what it means to you. To us, it’s about family. The eating is great, but Jen’s family lives in South Dakota, so it’s the one time of the year, when we know we’re going to get to see them, even if we havent gotten to for the rest of the year. So, it’s endearing and special to us.

    It’s also a time of travel. Two years ago it was in SD, last year it was San Fran and this year, family reunion in San Diego, so it’s always fun. We’re very family oriented on both sides of our family, and lucky that both sides are accepting and loving all around, and we never forget how lucky we are for that. It should be fun to see how you celebrate and how everything turns out. Happy Holiday! 🙂

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  17. I really can’t comment on thanksgiving at all but have to say I’m enjoying ready the comments about it!

    It’s not just brits that still celebrate guy fawkes – us ex-colonials on the other side of the world still get into it too – in fact I’m listening to the fireworks from our neighbour’s place right now (technically guy fawkes isn’t til tomorrow night but they’ve severely restricted sales of fireworks over the last few years so the only time of year you can buy them here is the four days leading up to guy fawkes – there’s still big displays at events etc through the year but it’s the only time joe public can get hold of them so naturally every celebrates by letting off a few!)

    Reply

  18. STUFFING!
    BUTTERY ROLLS!
    PIE!

    We’ve had many veg thanksgivings. Often we buy pre-made tofurkey or nut roast but other years we’ve made shepherd’s pie or other nutty things. Warm and hearty, you can’t go wrong.

    Reply

  19. I agree with a few other commenters that it’s a great feast and there is no pressure to buy pressies or anything like that. In my family we usually have the same dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it is like a pre-cursor to Christmas. I avoid the shopping on Black Friday, but it’s a nice 5 day weekend if you’re a teacher (which I am). Oh, and I was a vegetarian for 10 years, and always just ate everything around the turkey.

    You should talk about the differences in Christmas between the UK and the U.S. when you talk about Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day for me). For instance, I’ve seen a few packages of crackers being sold here in recent years (for an insanely high price), but normally people have no idea about them. I always liked the cracker tradition growing up in Ireland.

    Reply

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