We have always marked Thanksgiving, particularly as a means of reminding the children of their American heritage. Of course, in Scotland it is not a national holiday so in previous years we have always had to celebrate Thanksgiving on the weekend. This then was – for the four kids and me – our first Thanksgiving celebrated on the actual day itself and we had been really looking forward to it.
The older boys had been learning a bit about Thanksgiving in school and my 4 year old had been learning about it through the theme of Native Americans at preschool (as well as doing the Turkey Pokey!). I had also borrowed books galore from the library – including a lovely one of NC Wyeth’s mural paintings – and had attended a Thanksgiving lunch at the youngest’s preschool. With all this build-up, we were very much looking forward to the celebration.
The logical, academic side of me conflicts with the emotional side of me when it comes to Thanksgiving. I do very much appreciate the sentiment of the day: offering up thanks and expressing gratitude for what one has, reflecting on life’s blessings and spending time with loved ones. However, it is difficult to square the warm glow of those emotions with the historical event the day commemorates. After all, only a few decades after Squanto and Samoset had saved the pilgrims from starvation and ignorance, the colonists and the indigenous population were engaged in King Philip’s War (during which one of Mr Pict’s direct ancestors was scalped). Colonisation, subjugation and genocide are a bit hard to swallow along with tales of planting corn and sharing turkey. However, I then have to reconcile that moral dilemma with the fact that we would literally not be in America now as a family had it not been for the colonists. Mr Pict – and, therefore, our four sons – is a descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who crossed from Europe to America on ‘The Mayflower’. So had it not been for the whole Thanksgiving story, had it not been for John Alden and Priscilla Mullins surviving the disease and privations that beset the colonists in order to pass on their DNA for generations to come, then Mr Pict would not have been born half-American and it would have been near impossible for us to emigrate. So, in order to be grateful for this opportunity, I suppose I have to be grateful to the pilgrims for their colonising of land already occupied by the Native Americans.
What we were very thankful for yesterday was the chance to all be together all day, having quality family time, relaxing in each other’s company. The boys in particular have found it difficult to adjust to Daddy’s new working hours and patterns so they relished the chance to spend four solid days with him. Mr Pict actually has to go away with work for a week (Florida in December – sucks to be him) so this was a good ration of Daddy-Son time to store up their reserves for the week ahead.
Of course, a critical component of Thanksgiving is the food. We decided to be very traditional this year so that the kids could experience an authentic American Thanksgiving dinner. Centre stage obviously was the turkey. We actually got the turkey for free from the supermarket. Turkeys here are a loss leader at Thanksgiving, enticing people into the store to buy all the other bits and bobs they need. Since I shop there anyway, it being my nearest supermarket, clocking up all the required loyalty points was simple. I even have enough left over to get a dollar per gallon off car fuel. So we had our freebie $25 turkey, mashed potato, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, green bean casserole (my favourite), corn on the cob, corn bread and stuffing. American stuffing is not like British stuffing. Instead of having a sausage meat base, it is like moistened herby croutons. It tastes nicer than it sounds. Incidentally I don’t know that corn on the cob is a traditional side for Thanksgiving – though we usually do creamed corn – but you can never have enough corn on the cob at this time of year.
A Thanksgiving tradition that is new to me is sales shopping. There has been a lot of controversy this year in the run up to the holidays regarding the number of shops opening on Thanksgiving itself, which not only means that frenzied bargain hunters leave their family to go and track down deals but also employees are coerced into giving up a holiday. I am in support of holidays staying as holidays, especially a secular one such as this where everyone can enjoy some time off together, so the ethical part of me wanted to opt out of sales. I would never actually go out to sales anyway. I hate crowds almost to the point of being phobic and I don’t wish to do battle with ferocious people clamouring for things going cheap. However, the frugal side of me won out against the ethical side and I did hop online to snag some deals on Christmas presents for the kids and a vacuum cleaner for me. I am justifying this on the basis that we had to abandon so many possessions to relocate here that we now have to replace and stretching our budget as far as possible is obviously important.
I was very excited about Thanksgiving TV. Apparently American Football is a thing on Thanksgiving so Mr Pict watched a bit of whatever game was on. I don’t do sport – playing, spectating or viewing – so the TV I was looking forward to were the Charlie Brown and Muppets specials. Charlie Brown did not disappoint. The two episodes were sweet without being mawkish and the whole thing had a vintage charm. One episode even mentioned John Alden and Priscilla Mullins which my boys enjoyed. Family history is proving a good way to engage them in history. The show I was really excited about – more than would be considered normal for an adult woman – was the Muppets special. I have always loved the Muppets. I still forget that they are puppets when I am watching them. Sincerely, Miss Piggy was one of my icons growing up. I have managed to emulate her feisty spiritedness but her femininity and glamour have always eluded me. Unfortunately, the much anticipated Muppets Special was hugely disappointing. Lady Gaga was supposedly the special guest but she dominated entirely rather than assuming a guest’s role. As such, the Muppets, including stars Kermit and Piggy, were relegated to bit part players. The whole thing became one long promotional music video (for music I dislike no less) and all the magic of the Muppets was lost.
So overall we very much enjoyed our first American Thanksgiving.