Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes First (Part 1)

Thanksgiving Day 2010
This post is in response to the wonderful Suldog and his annual entreaty to everybody to leave Yuletide preparations and celebrations until after Thanksgiving Day. Of course this American holiday ranks no where with other countries in the world -- so I will suggest until December first -- which is the first day on the Advent calendars so popular with everyone, or Advent Sunday or even better St. Nicholas Day, which is December 6th.

In Britain the Christmas Season seems to begin October first -- for then the TV ads begin and the stores' toy departments are expanded and heavy laden. And my heart begins to sink ... smart ass television and radio personalities joke about how many days or weeks until Christmas and my head looks to bury itself in the sand. The past few years in Britain have seen an increase in paraphernalia pertaining to Halloween -- but so far nothing to dent the early enthusiasm for displays of Christmas Cards, Christmas decorations, Gift ideas, etcetera, etcetera.

But this post is supposed to be about Thanksgiving and so far I've plodded on about is December 25th!

The Man Who Carves and The Sister Who Cooks
I love Thanksgiving. Last year The Man and I hauled ourselves out of England and headed for a grand old New England Thanksgiving Day. My mother now lives in a retirement center, but every year my youngest sister gathers her immediate family and drives to Connecticut from Vermont with all the Thanksgiving fixings! Mom's kitchen may be a bit on the small side, but it is complete and she still has her silverware and enough dishes and glassware to set out a feast.

The Great Day began with sitting down to watch the balloon spectacle Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! This was unusually enjoyable for me as it had been several years since I'd last seen one. Year after year it may become old hat for some, but for once I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sound of the Parade in the background had a genuine Thanksgiving kind of hum that blends magically with the preparations in the kitchen and dining area and the smells which gradually emanate from beyond and are reminiscent all Thanksgivings past.

Nowadays Mom does not do any cooking, but she insisted on preparing the sweet potatoes. We did persuade her to leave off the sickly sweet toasted marshmallows though. I prepared the mashed potatoes and succotash -- for those of you not familiar with this dish it is a mixture of sweet corn and lima beans. Of course there were other vegetables and cranberry sauce and stuffing and pies -- last year there were apple, pumpkin and mince. All washed down with bottles of Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and whatever red wine The Man chose.  In all there were nine of us to make merry and begin the festive season quite properly with this special all American Day of Thanksgiving. All this was followed by the usual digestif  of some American Football and the full flow of a dishwasher in perfect working order!

Thanksgiving is more than one day -- it is a long weekend. The Friday, now known as Black Friday, is the busiest shopping day of the year and for many of us marks the beginning of the Christmas season. There are even members of my own family who I am embarrassed to say put up their Christmas tree on this day! I am now too old to participate in the Black Friday madness when the traffic jams are legendary and the stores are  mobbed. Best to stay at home and eat turkey and cranberry sauce and stuffing sandwiches, don't you think? Some people can hardly wait for the shopping to begin though -- some stores started opening at midnight and the lines had been forming for hours -- but at least Thanksgiving came first!


  1. Mince pie... I really miss the mince pie. Nobody else in the family will eat it. So I have settle for some apple and some pumpkin.
    As for the sweet potatoes, we've found that just scrubbing the hide, piercing it and then baking the silly things in the oven cooks them just fine.

  2. Hi Broad, I so agree with you about the horror of Christmas starting so very early. I still refuse to put up the decorations or dress the tree until Christmas Eve or at most the day before.

    Your delectable-sounding Thanksgiving meal has a lot of similarities with what I think of as a traditional Christmas dinner, so what do you do at Christmas? The same again or something completely different?

  3. Hello Katherine:
    We have never visited the USA but we have to say that we do like the idea of Thanksgiving as a time when families gather and a jolly time doing things together is had by all. Certainly yours sounds to have been wonderful.

    We really dislike the commercialisation of Christmas in the UK which with every passing year seems to become more obscene. We much prefer to be in Hungary where Christmas trees are put up on Christmas Eve, families gather together for the celebration and good food rather than gifts is the centre of attention.

  4. It's one of the things I appreciate living in France: Christmas stuff appears in December; even in the supermarkets. They may hang Christmas decorations in the streets; I saw some going up in Amboise end of last week but they stay unlit til later.

  5. Uncle Skip: Both my parents love mince pie -- but it's not a favorite with their children! In England the tradition is little mince pies and Mom loves it when I bring her a box or two.

  6. Perpetua: I quite agree with you about putting up the decorations -- though I begin putting things up on the Winter Solstice. It has been many years since I've decorated the big tree -- I very happily gave that job to our boys and they are now very good at it. I have a second smaller tree in my study which is decorated with a collection of ballerina ornaments and which I decorate.

    We don't have turkey on Christmas -- two turkey dinners within such a short span of time is one too many for us! Our traditional dinner is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding!

  7. Niall and Antoinette: Another example of French savoir faire! I understand that Christmas Day is all about the food!I myself have had as many as 6 courses, but I understand it is not unusual for the French to have 12!

  8. Jane and Lance: Yes! Yes! Yes! In Germany the tree is decorated behind closed doors and on Christmas Eve the doors are opened and the children find the tree decorated and lit with candles and gifts under the tree, which have been left by the Christ Child -- very charming indeed! For 5 years we lived in a small village outside of Munich and the Christmas season was/is heavenly.

  9. One day I'll get to attend an American Thanksgiving Day, see the Boston Red Sox and walk around Manhatten pretending that I'm in a Woody Allen film.

    Wish I'd been there.


  10. SP: I wish you had been there, too! And I love the Boston Red Sox -- ever since I was a wee child living in Vermont. As for Woody Allen, it seems he's found form again working in Paris!

  11. Thank you so much! This is wonderful!

    And tell SP that it's my treat for a Red Sox game - or she's invited to Thanksgiving dinner - depending upon when she ever gets to Boston :-)

  12. Thanks Sully: You inspire me to get on with Part II!

  13. We were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner by american friends last year...our first...and we enjoyed the traditional food.

    The first sign of the approach of Christmas here? Candles adorned with fake pine and real ribbon and a Santa Claus and sack marked 'ho ho ho' at my lawyer's office...surreal.


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