I walked into my first Thanksgiving dinner at the age of eighteen with the vaguest concepts of turkey, cranberry sauce and going round the table one by one to say what we’re thankful for. Most of my Thanksgiving knowledge came from binge watching Friends during high school, so I’d only ever seen the holiday as a caricature; I didn’t grow up drawing turkeys or hearing lectures about pilgrims, and I had definitely never heard of a green bean casserole.
When people are surprised that I’d never celebrated Thanksgiving before college, there’s a joke I pretty much always tell: “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England — what do we have to be thankful for, the rain?” It usually gets a laugh, but there’s a little bit of truth there. The stereotype that British people don’t express their feelings isn’t entirely wrong, and I can’t imagine us ever having a holiday that’s based around appreciating what someone has done for us.
Over the past few years, I’ve picked up some of the history of Thanksgiving. I’ve learned about how the holiday can harm and stereotype Native Americans who had their land taken over at the time and are still recovering from that. I think these are really important things to learn about and acknowledge. That’s why when I celebrate Thanksgiving, I try to stay away from this kind of imagery and focus instead on the here and now. I know I can’t ever be an authority on this, but I definitely love the idea of a holiday celebrating the good things happening in our lives and those of the people we care about — focusing on the parts of the holiday that can be inclusive to everyone.
To me, there’s something magical about taking a few days out of the quarter and hiding in a cozy room, drinking hot chocolate and playing Heads Up for hours while the frost settles in. And while I definitely see that somebody who’s lived through this tradition every year since birth might be bored of their family, the shopping crowds and the unnecessary fascination with ‘watching the game’ by now, as someone who grew up having to go to school every single day in November, I love having the excuse to take time out and appreciate the world.
So when I tell my joke about the British not celebrating Thanksgiving, sometimes it feels a little too real — because I definitely do have more to be thankful for than I did a few years back.
I’m thankful for the fact that despite all the political controversy and the immigration restrictions some people support, there are still also so many families I know who are willing to take me in, share their food and let me be a part of their holiday. I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by friends who only occasionally laugh at my dumb questions about American traditions and mostly just try to teach me things. And I’m incredibly thankful that nobody complains when I eat all the stuffing.
But even as I look forward to my fourth Thanksgiving this year, I still can’t get my head around the wishbone.