I must admit that I had limited ideas for this week’s post. I was prepared to move forward altogether when I sighted pictures of my relatives in North America. I just need a sliver of daylight to be inspired. I was aware that Thanksgiving is a big deal in the States and Canada. The annual Macy’s parade, NFL action, carved turkeys, and coverage – both fictional and otherwise – have etched this holiday into the heart of American culture. However, I was surprised upon doing further research that Thanksgiving is celebrated not only in those two countries, but in disparate places across the globe. More than anything, this shows the pull of U.S. influence on the planet.
Thanksgiving is the States’ most ecumenical holiday and has been associated with a day of reflection, shared blessings, and family. Held during the fourth Thursday of Novembers, the day falls on a public holiday for Yankees. Sporting leagues around the two states, whether amateur, minor, or major, hit the pause button to be with their loved ones. The aforementioned NFL is a notable exception as the gridiron matches becomes an annual showcase. I recall how Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in Big Bang reminisced that he would spend Thanksgiving on the couch with his pops as they feasted on punts and plays. Thanksgiving is a federal holiday in the U.S. so expect schools, libraries, banks, government offices, post offices, stock markets, and universities to be closed. The majority of these businesses remain closed on Fridays to guarantee a long weekend for employees. However, essential services like hospitals, utilities, and airports will remain open. I recall watching Six Feet Under way back and Nathan Fisher opens up before dinner of what he’s thankful for. Households gather around supper to look back at the past year and take an inventory of things.
Thanksgiving has a long tradition in America, with the celebrations on its current date since 1941. The custom of the holiday has been around since as far back as the Founding Fathers in the late 1700s. The holiday has been proclaimed by presidential decree since George Washington in 1789. The tradition’s roots could be attributed to the pilgrims and settlers who migrated from the U.K. between 1620 and 1630. This centuries-old observance only shows that the USA has been around for ages. In that span, they have produced a cavalcade of historical figures, from Benjamin Franklin to Martin Luther King, from Abraham Lincoln to John Grisham.
While the first American Thanksgiving is open to debate, that the holiday has religious origins is more certain. However, the date has evolved into a more secular holiday, which applies to Canada as well. Thanksgiving has been linked with the commencement of the ‘holiday season’. The day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday – begins the Yuletide shopping season. This represents the biggest day in the American retail calendar. Celebrating with family but also in public, various parades around America have highlighted the day’s tradition. From Chicago to Philly, Gotham to the Bayou, big metropoles acknowledged in their own way. Meanwhile, Canadians mark Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. It is also a widely-recognised holiday in that nation.
Like Thanksgiving, other countries have emulated the American model. They have cashed in on the shopping frenzy. I was astonished to find out that the Philippines used to celebrate Thanksgiving. Being a former U.S. colony, Uncle Sam brought the tradition in the first half of the 1900s. This special holiday fell on an identical day as Stateside. This continued – both in secret and otherwise – until ’69. In the present, Thanksgiving is being celebrated in an entirely different light. This is tied in more to the upcoming Yuletide season, which takes off in September, with plenty of hotels and malls offering specials. The Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world. ‘100 days of Christmas’ is a popular slogan.
Thanksgiving may not be overtly celebrated in Oz, but we can learn a thing or two from our Stateside brothers. Family, footy, parades, and a shared meal may not sound like much but that is precisely why we should replicate them. Saying a short prayer and finding time to talk with your loved ones is time well spent.