The following is an opinion piece about Thanksgiving. If you’re in a country that isn’t celebrating it today, don’t worry. It’s not celebrated in the writer’s country today either.
Thanksgiving came on right out of nowhere for me, to the point that I really wasn’t prepared for it.
It’s not that I have to get the family together, or make last-minute turkey preparations. It’s just that you’d probably love to read some of the best movies or television shows or some kind of crazy list for the extended holiday weekend. However, unless some other writer comes up with one, I wouldn’t expect it here.
If you’re in the United States, then chances are, you’re celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a national holiday, of course, designed to remind us the benefits of working well with other people, like Native Americans, before we take their land and build pipelines on it, while turning a blind eye as they erect some pretty amazing casinos.
I shouldn’t joke about that as it might downplay what remain some very serious issues plaguing the Native American community. Yet, sometimes it takes a little bit of humor to remind us that such problems continue to occur, and that we shouldn’t let it stray too far from our minds.
In any event, today is the second Thanksgiving I have spent away from the United States. That’s because for the last 15 months, I’ve called the small Caribbean island of Grenada my home. This isn’t a permanent home, and I’ll relocate to New York City next spring. But for now, I am enjoying the wonderful people here, the beautiful sights, and the fact that I don’t even own a jacket.
Today is just a regular day for me. Even the better half, who is going to medical school here, will have classes, because it’s just Thursday here.
In fact, we already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Grenada, on Oct. 25. I joined many of my American friends in putting together a bit of a pot-luck Thanksgiving celebration, with some turkey and even a little pumpkin pie – not an easy thing to find here.
Thanksgiving in Grenada is different from the one in the United States, although it exists because of America. Oct. 25, if you’re not familiar with history, marks the anniversary of the day U.S. military forces invaded Grenada following a coup here that resulted in a death of a popular prime minister. I was just seven years old when that all went down, and living very far away in Pennsylvania.
That got me wondering about other Thanksgivings around the world, since GeekNation is really more like GeekGlobal. I mean, we always hear about some kind of Thanksgiving observance in Canada, but where else do they take place? What are their origin stories? And what on Earth does it have to do with being a geek?
I turned to a very trusted source, Mr. Wikipedia, who answered all the questions except the last one. And you might find it interesting. If not, we’ve also published a story today about the new Alien film getting moved up, so you can check that out, too.
Apparently, besides the United States and Grenada, there are six other places that have some form of Thanksgiving. And where else is the best place to start than Canada?
If you’re there right now, then we’ve already missed the holiday, because it takes place the second Monday in October. This year, that would’ve been Oct. 10.
While American Thanksgiving celebrated friendship between natives and newcomers, the Canadian Thanksgiving is more about celebrating the harvest itself. Luckily, however, the food is pretty much the same – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and even pumpkin pie.
But Canadians do something Americans should’ve really bought into early on – even though the official holiday is on a Monday, you pretty much can feast any of the days over that long weekend. Or if you’re like me, you could find a way to feast on all three days of the long weekend. I would just Thanksgiving hop from one feast to another.
It’s a great way to give thanks. Even if I end up dying from a tryptophan overdose.
Then we jump to The Netherlands, for no other reason than it was the next tab set up on my Web browser. This Thanksgiving, like the Grenadian one, also is based on American influences.
See, the Pilgrims who made it to the New World and feasted with the natives actually stayed in the Dutch city of Leiden between 1609 and 1620. To celebrate that connection with an historical group, the Pieterskerk (or St. Peter’s church), has a non-denominational Thanksgiving Day service the same day as the American holiday.
Otherwise, Thanksgiving is a religious holiday in The Netherlands, celebrated by orthodox Christian churches on the first Wednesday in November. This year, that would’ve been Nov. 2. And yes, you missed this holiday, too.
Because it’s not a public holiday, many of the churches offer evening services, or encourage its parishioners to take a day off from work so they can attend a service during the day.
Thanksgiving in Liberia also has an American influence, because the holiday in this African country celebrates the colonization of freed black slaves from the United States. The holiday was first celebrated in 1820, and takes place on the first Thursday of November (which this year was Nov. 3).
If you were to travel to Australia, you wouldn’t find a Thanksgiving celebration anywhere. That is until you ventured out to the Australian territory of Norfolk Island. It’s a tiny island of just 13.3 square miles (about one-fifth of the land size of Pittsburgh) and a little more than 2,200 people.
Residents there, however, celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday in November, similar to what the United States did before World War II. Why? Because the island was visited by many whaling ships from America way back in the day, and many of them found themselves docked at Norfolk over the Thanksgiving holiday.
So yeah, it just stuck.
The Philippines used to celebrate Thanksgiving, once again thanks to American influences, but let’s just say the country didn’t have a great relationship with the holiday. It probably didn’t help when dictator (or president, depending on your view) Ferdinand Marcos enforced Thanksgiving on Sept. 21, and celebrated it by declaring martial law.
Somehow those two things didn’t mix.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, it never h- … what? I forgot Saint Lucia? The small island that’s just 130 miles north of me in the Caribbean celebrates Thanksgiving the first Monday of October. Why? I don’t know. Mr. Wikipedia didn’t tell me.
So as I was saying, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, it never hurts to reflect on what the holiday represents: friendship, working together, and pumpkin pie.
We could probably use a little of all three every now and then. Speaking of which, where did I put the whipped cream …
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