This year, I forgot all about Thanksgiving until a friend called to invite me for dinner at her house. I was very glad that she did because I really enjoy her company and because I then realized that I had almost completely missed the big day. It just wasn’t on my to-do list. I actually had to check the calendar to find out which Sunday was the holiday.
I confess that I have never really given Thanksgiving a lot of attention, even though I made a good attempt at it when my children were growing up. My own childhood was spent in the UK where they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way as North Americans. We were always thankful for the harvest, though, and the harvest festival was a church event at which people brought food for the poor. I remember that I enjoyed seeing the big pile of food at the altar each year.
The US Thanksgiving is tied to families reunions. People drive sometimes long distances to join parents, children, siblings, nieces and nephews for a big turkey dinner and to watch a football game together.
Canada’s Thanksgiving Day is a lot like the US Thanksgiving but a month earlier; we eat turkey with cranberries, and have apple pie for dessert. It’s a delightful time spent with family and friends, and this year the weather was warm and sunny. I spent time with my friends on Sunday evening and on Monday my youngest son and his partner came to visit. Good food, good weather, good company.
This year, even though the whole thing had escaped my attention until just a few days ago, I managed to get my act together in time to make two apple pies. When I took my son and his partner to the bus station for their journey home, they left with a bag of left-over food. I noticed someone else taking the bus was also carrying a bag of left-overs that they will enjoy in their lunches for the next few days
Next year I think I might lean more towards the harvest festival approach to autumn celebrations. If I give to the local food bank, they will certainly be very thankful for donations. It’s not quite the same thing, though, as making extra food for family and friends.
As I think about giving people food, I recall the old English Boxing Day tradition. The servants of the wealthy would tend to the needs of their masters on Christmas Day, and then they were allowed to visit their own families on the following day. Their masters would give them gifts to take home, and sometimes they would box up the left-over food from the Christmas dinner. Hence, Boxing Day. I’ve often wondered how the staff would have felt about that.
If I contribute to a big pile of food at a British harvest festival or a Canadian food bank, it feels like a good thing to do, but disassociated from the recipients. When I make extra food for family and friends, on the other hand, it’s less about the food and more about the people I love. They don’t need the food as much as the poor or the homeless, but I enjoy giving it to them more. Instead of food as charity, it is food as love. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.