Cultural holidays

Cultural holidays or feasts are interesting things. This year for the first time I celebrated Thanksgiving in the USA. I’m staying with my sister and her US born and raised husband and we were hosting, so it was the full thing. A few shy of twenty adults and a handful of little kids.

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (and a bunch of other sides) and a pumpkin pie among other desserts.

It was pleasant enough (full disclosure – I was on Matthew watch (my two year old nephew) so I spent at least half the time in the basement with the little kids watching cartoons!). But even so, there was a disconnect which I don’t usually experience in very similar circumstances at Christmas.

Somewhere in my being I know how to celebrate Christmas, but for Thanksgiving I have no inherent memory.

In a very different way, I celebrated Easter this year in quite a foreign manner. Unusually it was spent with my family out in the countryside – far away from the usual liturgical rhythm. It was similarly mildly disorienting.

I guess Thanksgiving is a truly modern holiday – built not on a religious foundation but on the ideal of secular nation. It is a gift to have a traditional holiday celebrated by everyone.

Nonetheless, tt makes me acutely aware of the pain some must feel at their inability to celebrate these feasts or holidays in ways which feel ‘right’. It doesn’t matter what you think it ‘should’ look like, if it doesn’t somehow resemble how you think it ought to be it can be acutely painful.

I feel for all those whose Thanksgiving was not as they would want it to be. And for those who are newly in the US and want to find a way to make sense of a new holiday – celebrate every year in a way that makes sense to you and build memories.


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