Despite not really knowing exactly what to expect, I’ll admit that my expectations for Thanksgiving were pretty high.
It seems to be the favorite holiday of the vast majority of Americans (I apologize if you are reading this as an American and wholeheartedly disagree with me, but just go with it). I had numerous people tell me that Thanksgiving would be my new favorite holiday once I had experienced it for the first time. Spoiler alert: Christmas is still my favorite holiday, but that’s not really important.
Firstly, I was very surprised that we got a whole week off for Thanksgiving. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great, and I am in no way complaining about having a week off school. Having said that, Thanksgiving break seems to come at a weird time to me. I understand that it’s a holiday and therefore not scheduled around the lives of college or high school students, but it still seems pretty strange to me that we’re back for just two more weeks of classes. I guess that’s something I’ll just have to get used to. Of course, I’m sure that as soon as I do, I’ll be moving back home. C’est la vie.
So here’s what too many American movies (“Happy Thanksgiving back,” anyone?), commercials and Americans in general had led me to expect about Thanksgiving: way, way too much food, family, family drama, sports, more food and a sense of happiness and thankfulness.
Oh and a lot of sales afterwards, because what better way to follow a lovely day of being thankful than by spending a lot of money? Side note: We do have Black Friday in the U.K. now, but it’s not anywhere near as big or as terrifying as it is here. In the U.K., we’re very good at queueing and being passive aggressive, so we stick to that in times of stress.
So, how did a real American thanksgiving measure up? I have to say, I think it ticked off everything on my list.
There was a lot of food and, despite not being able to eat about half of it because of my many, many food allergies, I still feel like I could have put on the freshman 15 over thanksgiving break alone.
To be fair, the family that kindly invited me to spend the holiday with them also had what seemed like their entire family over — a total of 23 people — so there needed to be a lot of food. That being said, I was not expecting there to be turkey, ham, other meats that I can’t recall and approximately eight pies, amongst a wide array of other foods. I also tried cornbread for the first time.
That leads me to family. There were so many people that came over to the house for Thanksgiving and, even though it made me miss my own family just that little bit more, it was lovely.
It was so, so lovely to see family through the generations coming together to celebrate and just be around each other. That said, I challenge you to recount any time when a family has gathered together and there hasn’t been some sort of drama.
There was the drama of getting the giblets that got lost inside the turkey (which subsequently had to be taken out of the oven), the fact that a few family members turned up a few hours late (although I was told this was actually to be expected) and my friend’s grandma questioning me on my thoughts about the Mayor of London (my thoughts were wrong, I found out), my religion and my relationship status.
As someone with only one grandparent who lives in Australia, who I’ve met just twice in my life, I think I got a lifetime’s worth of grandparent-style questioning in just one evening. Given that it wasn’t my family, I thought I would be able to avoid the grilling that I’ve heard people come to expect at Thanksgiving. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For some reason, though, I think this made me feel more at home. I was treated like part of the family, and I think that’s partly what Thanksgiving is all about. I can’t tell you the number of people who asked me where I was going over the holiday because “no one should be alone over Thanksgiving” and invited me to come stay with them. Even if people were just being nice to me because they felt sorry that I wasn’t going back home, it was so nice to know that people cared.
What I’ve learnt through Thanksgiving, even if it hasn’t become my favorite holiday, is that it is a time when Americans are even more open and hospitable and welcoming than usual. Every family has their own traditions, their own recipes and celebrations, and there is something so warming about being a part of that that I can’t quite put into words. It’s something that is quite foreign for British people, but it’s something I love about this country, as cheesy as I know that sounds.