Saturday, 24 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Especially to my family in the US!
I am currently wondering if I can celebrate Thanksgiving as an Anglo-American without....a turkey! Or any form of roasted fowl. I have some cold pizza in the fridge which might make a good meal if re-heated in the microwave, but somehow I don't think it will be keeping in with the usual family tradition.
My husband and I just got back from Japan last night after a 13 hour flight and we are currently suffering from a 10 hour-time-difference jetlag, so roasting meat is not a high priority. About 10 hours ago, my bed looked so good and sleep came so easily, but at around 4am this morning, our eyes snapped open and I was the most alert I had ever been for the middle night ever! I could have recited poetry on command, done some serious mental maths and written an 3,000 word essay before the sun had even risen - I was that awake.

So we went to Japan, for 3 weeks....and I am not kidding...I seriously feel as if my whole outlook on life has completely changed. But, before I start writing about the most awesome trip...ever...let me recap on what exactly Thanksgiving has been to me the last 30 years.

I grew up in London, the child of American parents. We weren't actual citizens of the UK until I was much older, so for all intensive purposes we were pretty American for my early years. We celebrated Halloween more than anyone else at my school. When I was little, people didn't 'trick or treat' much in the UK, so my mum would dress up with me in our flat and basically just give me sweets and carve pumpkins and then try to scare my dad when he came home from work. It was great fun. I loved roasting the pumpkin seeds in the oven and sucking all the salt off them later.
And of course, we celebrated Independence Day (4th July) and Thanksgiving each year. Thanksgiving was always a big deal. My mum would buy a huge turkey, our cat would go crazy over the smell of cooking bird for around 4 hours and we always ended the meal with a pumpkin pie. I loved every minute of it and always gorged myself on turkey, gravy, caramalised onions, cranberry sauce, corn bread and wild rice pilaf. My dad would teach me how to draw a turkey by tracing around my hand on paper and we sometimes even made pilgrim hats and Native American Indian headbands complete with fringed bright coloured paper feathers. Of course, this is all before I had any idea about the human rights abuses the Native American Indians suffered at the hands of the pilgrim settlers, but hey! It was my time of innocence.
We often used to invite our close British family friends to Thanksgiving and sometimes there were as many as 12 or 15 people in our small flat. We pushed tables together and all sat squeezed in on mis-matched chairs. I loved sitting at the table and watching everyone eat and talk loudly. It was nice to have so many people in our lives and to watch them all enjoy themselves while eating a huge meal that my parents and I had spent hours preparing was, heart-warming.

And of course being British as well as American means I get to have a big British Christmas as well! Throughout my childhood, my mum used to cook strange things for Christmas as less than a month before she had been roasting turkey for Thanksgiving and so wanted to eat other dishes for Christmas day, but after a few years we developed a tradition of going to visit some family friends (who were English) for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We would engage in a never-ending orgy of eating and drinking traditional British seasonal food. Which led to me probably being the only American child to develop a taste for Christmas pudding and brandy butter. So you could say that I got the best of both culinary worlds.

Then I grew up and experienced the awkward joy that is the 'Work Christmas Party.' In fact this year I have a ridiculous number of Christmas parties to attend at my workplace (due to the fact that my students are also organising events). I believe the total number is 10 parties/dinners. I will be well and truly sick of turkey and bacon-wrapped-cocktail-sausages by Christmas Day. Plus there is, of course, all the Christmas family events as well. Due to the complicated nature of my family on my husband's side, I will be attending 3 separate Christmas family gatherings, possibly even 4. But hey, I am fan of celebrations and this year I attended my first Hanukkah lunch and I would probably even celebrate Diwali if someone invited me to! Just maybe go easy on the turkey.

As the years have gone by I have begun travelling on the path to starting my own family. I married an Englishman and we incorporated him and his mother (also English) into our American Thanksgiving festivities. My parents, after living in the UK for more than 20 years, are now very Anglicised and take great pleasure in celebrating British holidays and cultural events. The last few Thanksgivings we have had have been smaller and I had the disconcertingly melancholy feeling of leaving my parents' house at the end of Thanksgiving. I have in the passing years grown up and become another guest. Instead of waving goodbye to friends at the end of the day, I now kiss my parents and leave to go to my own home with husband. So in fact, we seem less American now than when we moved to London all those years ago and I have had to adjust my identity from American to British, child to adult and daughter to wife.

However, this will be nothing compared to the adjustment I will have to make come January 2013, when I will have to transform from turkey-eating-party-goer to dieting-hard-working-exercise-freak. How else will I lose all those pounds I gained from eating so much turkey!
Ah well...