More Than Just Turkey – An American Expat Explains Thanksgiving

Turkey & The Trimmings

Since moving to England, I’ve had to explain a few American holidays with Thanksgiving being one. There seems to be a lot of confusion here about why we celebrate it and what it is exactly.

Most people know about the turkey, but not much more than that.  A young woman asked me the other day if it’s like Christmas for Americans only without the gifts.

Suppressing a laugh, I said there were no presents at Thanksgiving and that like others who celebrate Christmas, we save our gifts for the tree, not the turkey.

I told her about the early settlers and how fortunate the Pilgrims were to be fed by the Native Americans when there wasn’t enough food to go around.

I talked about how it’s a celebration of family by most and a gathering of people who sit down to tables loaded with memories created from family recipes passed down through generations.

I forgot to mention how it’s football and alcohol and a chance to over-indulge in more than just food for some folks.

I didn’t say much about the thanks in Thanksgiving or how we talk about gratitude and blessings, generally sharing some of what we’re grateful for before the first fork is lifted.

I didn’t say how it feels to be so far from my other home on days like these or how we really do exchange gifts in a way although not the kind that can be purchased from a favorite store.

I should have talked about the gifts of memory that are mixed in with the pie and family favorites, and the stories of loved ones long gone who come alive for a moment when we remember them, especially when we join hands with those sitting next to us, bow our heads and give thanks.

Most Americans, with me included, tend to make a big to-do about the turkey and the trimmings, but in the end I think we just want a little more time with those we love and whether it’s in person, or in memory, Thanksgiving forces us to focus on what really matters.

Happy Thanksgiving to friends and family who celebrate this day.

If you have a gift of memory you’d like to share, I’d love to read about it. Please leave a link if you have one on your blog today or tell us a family favorite that comes up each year. 

14 thoughts on “More Than Just Turkey – An American Expat Explains Thanksgiving

  1. Elizabeth, I truly enjoyed this post. It made me tear up because I was just thinking about the same thing this morning. Even though we are distant cousins, I feel a strong kindred for you. You are a deep thinker like a lot of Turners and I so enjoy reading your posts. My husband Mike and I hope to someday relocate to Le Havre* and become expats like you!
    *We have been there many times and just love it; especially St. Adresse.
    Hope you and John had a nice Thanksgiving, Mike and I have been invited to share dinner with some friends of ours who are French!
    Keep those posts coming. Really enjoy them.
    Regards, Linda

  2. Most people associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the Natives because that’s what children are taught in school. But it was actually President Lincoln who pronounced the first day of “Thanksgiving” in November and it was a day of fasting, to be spent in remembrance and prayer for the troops.

    I don’t know why this aspect of Thanksgiving isn’t honored today in our culture.

  3. Mom and I enjoyed a very quiet peacful Thanksgiving at the cabin. Had a roaring fire all day and I cooked up the favorites. We had pie about an hour ago and are now headed to bed. I was able to grab a wireless link for a moment from someone up here, lol Sorry you were not here, but glad you got your turkey!


  4. On closer look..that is a very culturally mixed plate of food – and if I am not mistaken, not a British china dish, either? 🙂

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