I never celebrated “Thanksgiving” per se when I grew up in the Philippines. It was just something I read in books, saw on TV and in the movies. To me, the most memorable Hollywood Thanksgiving scene was from “The Addams Family Values”, where Wednesday and Pugsley performed in their summer camp’s reenactment of the first Thanksgiving meal. (“Eat me!” said turkey cosume dressed Pugsley.)
Life went on as usual on the second-to-the-last Thursday of November. There was work. People didn’t go into a state of panic because of their Thanksgiving menu and Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. There was no roasted turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce on the table. There were no TV specials: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NFL Thanksgiving games, or the infamous Puppy Bowl (i.e. dog shows aired on TV for non-American football enthusiasts). There were no decades old Thanksgiving traditions to continue.
It was an alien celebration until I set foot in this country.
I tried reading more about the origins of the holiday. Some say it is a celebration of thanks for the fall harvest in preparation for the bleak winter season. Some say it was when the pilgrims and Native Americans broke bread.
But no matter what the origins are, it is the quintessential American holiday, when people take days off work (if they can) to be with their familys or friends (should they just can’t stand family members), stuff their stomachs until it can’t take no more, head to the retail outlets, or, nowadays, log on their favorite shopping websites to shop until somebody punches them in the face over a coveted item (I’ve heard it does happen) and stop to reflect on what they’re thankful for.
Of course, as I am an expat here, recognizing the local cultures & tradition and trying my best to assimilate it into my life, it was inevitable that we jump into the Thanksgiving revelry.
Our surrogate Texas family invited us for a turkey feast, where we stuffed ourselves with plates of turkey & stuffing, glazed ham, and Filipino pork barbeque until we could not stand up. We did our fair share of Black Friday shopping (Remember those NBA tickets?). And yes, stopped to remember what we’re thankful for.
Maybe this alien celebration isn’t so alien as I thought it was. The Thanksgiving feast reminded me of the regular, monthly Sunday family gatherings to honor the month’s birthday celebrants over food, when we start each meal with a prayer remembering what we are grateful for.
Though we didn’t have the other Thanksgiving bells and whistles like the American sized chicken called turkey nor the TV specials nor the crazy, rock bottom discounts, there still was a lot to be thankful for. If Thanksgiving Day’s essence is about giving thanks, then it should not be celebrated just once a year. Then each and every day should be Thanksgiving Day.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you enjoy your holidays America!