Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving--from the Perspective of a"Blow in"

(Due to moving the blog posts the dates of publication are off by 2 or 3. Sorry a bout that delay. Contents remain the same.)

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American and Canadian tradition. In Germany, where I grew up, I only knew it from that Thanksgiving Sunday in early autumn in the Catholic Church where thanks is given for a good year’s harvest. Some crops are brought in and put on display under the altar to be blessed. Ireland where I also lived hasn’t adopted this American holiday although it tends to follow American trends in many other regards.
So my exposure to American Thanksgiving is fairly new. It was only introduced into my life a few years ago by my new American husband. I read up on it and know that it originates from the first pilgrims. “When Europeans first arrived to the Americas, they brought with them their own harvest festival traditions from Europe, celebrating their safe voyage, peace and good harvest” (Wikipedia) and blended them with Native American harvest traditions.
Having read up on a topic is one thing; living it can be a different matter. Halloween feels equally strange to me. Our whirlwind romance catapulted me into the open arms of a welcoming family. Not being used to a big family, I find the big get togethers and their customs challenging. In Germany, we never ate turkey. I find the food pairings odd and am not aware of their symbolic meanings. Why pickles with turkey and gravy?  Bread rolls plus potato mash? The overflowing table and abundance of everything makes the Ex Farmer’s wife in me cringe when I think of all the starving people around the world and millions that go hungry in this country alone. In all fairness, not all left-overs go down the garbage disposal. The turkey will be served again in various forms until everybody is fed up eating it. Why not get a smaller turkey in the first place?
I should still embrace the day as one of purely saying thanks for the good life I’m enjoying. Deep down in my heart of hearts, I am grateful for the privileged life-style I’m enjoying. I’m grateful for the fact that my husband has a job and that he brings home the bacon while I can indulge my hobby, i.e., writing. I’m grateful for all my friends and the encouraging words and responses I’m getting from people who “befriend” me and that I’m “linked” to.
I’m grateful that my daughter started her first paid job and that my son will graduate next year too. I’m grateful that I have lived a life in countries with civil liberties and the freedom to express my convictions without persecution. I’m grateful that I was born into this world at this point in time and place.
Yet, being a person for whom the glass is always half-empty, saying thanks doesn’t come natural. Since I feel the years creeping up on me, the cynic in me wants to inject that what is left in the glass is evaporating fast. I would be more grateful if I saw my children more often than just a few days a year. I would be more grateful if my pain didn’t keep me from working in my job.  
Having been told to “Count my blessings” by my Irish housekeeper, I try to do that every day. Shouldn’t we all be grateful for what we have all year long, day in, day out? Do we need a specific day in the year to remind us?
I guess we do. Otherwise we would take it all for granted even more.
PS. My American family would find some German traditions strange too, I’m sure.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Siggy Buckley

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