There’s something to be said about Americans and how much they love America.
Often, that love is emitted in naive or bigoted ways, but that goes for many other nations as well. But something is different about the Yanks, especially at this time of year, and it sparks a curiosity and respect, that as a foreigner that I am yet to find a name for.
Experiencing Thanksgiving in America, is as if someone has taken descriptions of both Harvest Festival and Christmas, and shoved them back and forth through Google Translate a few times. As a Brit, you recognize the elements- but the aggregate is peculiar. Is it Christmas minus the figgy pudding, a Sunday Dinner on steroids, or Harvest Festival overdosed on Pumpkins? It can be quite confusing for us foreigners. (Obviously, Thanksgiving, Independence Day etc, do not exist in my country of origin. Just like Christmas does not exist in Asia. That’s just how it is.) Hence, when people ask “what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” It’s always awkward explaining that we don’t dislike the notion, but unless invited to someone’s home, we will happily live our lives like it’s just another Thursday.
One other thing that has always caught my attention, is when Americans sing those patriotic songs. Have you ever stood among a thronging crowd, united not just in presence, but in purpose and ideals? It’s pretty moving. Americans singing God Bless America, or the Star Spangled Banner are times such as that. Most aren’t just touched by the music, but they seem to earnestly believe in every word they are singing.
Is it because the foundation of America is a set of ideas? I think so. Good and pure ideas about liberty and justice. And to quote my good American friend:
“it’s easy,natural and appropriate to be attached to and moved by those ideas and by extension the nation that was built on top of them and crafted to represent them. It’s more awkward to have that kind of reverence for a nation that represents a race or a geography or a series of ruling families. And so Americans do believe in American Exceptionalism. And NOT in the way Obama says he believes in it (he said he believes in it the same way Brits believe in British exceptionalism or Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism–simply out of loyalty).”
Then compare the above to us British folk, singing God Save the Queen. You have some (especially those military or veteran families) singing for their loved ones. But a good majority don’t even know the second verse of our national anthem, never mind believe in the Monarchy or in God. Therefore, it mounts to nothing more than a melodic tradition, sung at football games, as opposed to an earnest statement of belief.
I’ve always loved the American Ideal. It rings true to me and- as an immigrant- sometimes the lines between my cultures start to blur. As this is now my 5th Thanksgiving (Husband’s 3rd), I find myself feeling a sort of fondness for the whole thing. The turkeys, the pumpkin flavored everything, the love for one and all. What is better than gathering those around you, wallowing in humility, and pausing to enjoy and be grateful for the bounty of your life? Not a lot. In my mind, only Christmas really tops that for sacredness of a holiday.
So, I’ll say it: Happy Thanksgiving America. May we all give thanks today, whether we celebrate in true fashion or not. And, of course, God Save the Queen.