23 November 2007

Happy Thankstaking!

It’s Thanksgiving in a place that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

This morning, we went to a service held for Americans at St. Paul’s cathedral. It was my first time to be inside the seventeenth-century cathedral. The service was geared entirely toward Americans living in London, complete with a reading of the President’s Thanksgiving proclamation by the Ambassador.

On our way back to the flat, P and I decided to have our inaugural (and last annual) Thanksgiving Pub Lunch at the Knight’s Templar Pub on Chancery Lane. I guess we’re just suckers for traditions, even if they’ll only happen once.

For Thanksgiving dinner, recognizing the near-complete lack of turkey in London (aside from sandwich meat), S put together a dinner at a Turkish restaurant. If one can’t find turkey, what’s the next best thing: Turkish. Unfortunately, too many people bailed for us to keep the reservation, so we had sushi for Thanksgiving instead. We ate at a really swanky restaurant and the food was great. I had hoped that they might have a turkey roll (turkey, rolled in mashed potatoes and seaweed, with gravy on the side instead of soy sauce and wasabi) on the menu for the Americans. They didn’t, but it was still a nice time.

So, after two Thanksgiving meals, I had still consumed no turkey. Which, as I understand, is punishable by torture under the PATRIOT Act. Luckily, I literally have the greatest flatmates in the world. They made a ‘turkey joint,’ mashed potatoes, etc. and saved some for me, so that I wouldn’t have to let a Thanksgiving pass without having some turkey.

Even though I was away from my family for Thanksgiving last year, I still had a proper Thanksgiving meal in New York and caught a glimpse of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with good friends. This year, it’s as though Thanksgiving barely existed. I feel a little like a scientist who has to observe phenomena from afar. Having had to explain about a dozen times today how Thanksgiving came to be, I began to wonder about it myself. After careful thought, I realized that Thanksgiving is a strange holiday. It’s a day when hundreds of millions of already-well-fed people eat much, much more than they otherwise would have to prove that they have something for which to be thankful. It seems that outside of ‘thanks,’ Thanksgiving has little or nothing to do with ‘giving.’ Most of us have so much to be thankful for without having to eat until our stomachs hurt and the tensile strength of our waistbands are tested.

The day after Thanksgiving is a plumber’s nightmare (or dream-come-true, depending on his priorities). The third Friday in November (Day After Thanksgiving) is one of Roto-Rooter’s busiest days. Some calls are for in-sink garbage disposals that have succumbed to the weight of potato peels, but others deal with an even clearer sign of our gluttony: the backed-up toilet. Yes, Roto-Rooter sees a massive increase in it’s customer calls on the day after thanksgiving, because we have eaten so much that the pipes are backing up.

Maybe the holiday should be called Thankstaking. It seems to me that eating 3,800 calories in one sitting has little or nothing to do with ‘giving.’ While we should certainly be giving thanks for all that we do have, we should also consider that we probably don’t need to eat half of a thirteen-pound Butterball to prove our gratitude. Instead, maybe we should call the holiday ‘Thanksmaking.’ On Thanksmaking, we eat a moderate amount of food with the ones we love, and we go out of our way to make sure that people who aren’t as well-fed as we are have something for which they can be thankful.

So, Happy Thankstaking, Happy Thanksmaking, and of course Happy Thanksgiving.

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