Thanksgiving amongst Brits

I have cast off my sad sack (a couple of days and pints of Haagen Dazs later) thanks to the Role Mama and Mr. Role Mama and a projected viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in their lounge (and more comfort food) and have spent today slicing and dicing, baking and boiling, stirring and seasoning for Thanksgiving, which is now only hours away.  The Duchess spent the day zooming around me in her walker, watching me intently as we listened to our first round of Christmas music and I couldn’t help but feel the stirrings of tradition in the air.  While it’s an expected holiday in America, it will be special here.  It will be something that our family does as a cross-cultural household.  And what a great thing to do — a day set aside to stop, reflect and give thanks for all of the blessings, both everyday and miraculous, in our lives, all while gorging ourselves on delicious food.

Stuffing prep - chopping the onions nearly killed me

In case you were wondering, Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  I know, I know, that seems patronizing even to say it, but American people have asked me.  I’ve been hosting and feeding Brits at Thanksgiving for a while now and it’s always interesting to see what they make of it all.  Here is why:

When someone gets an invite the first question is usually, ‘What is Thanksgiving?  Is it like Friends?’  To be honest, I’ve never been completely sure what people mean by this.  Do they mean are their 6 of us who hang out in a local coffee shop, have a somewhat incestuous vibe in our friendship group, and who will find a reason to bicker on the day?  Then, no, it’s not like Friends.  I can only guess that for many Brits their only real American reference point is Friends, so that’s the best idea that they have of what Thanksgiving is.

The next question tends to be, ‘Isn’t Thanksgiving bigger than Christmas in America?’ and that is usually followed with, ‘Should I bring a gift?’ Unfortunately, I’m too kind to take advantage of their Turkey Day ignorance.  Just think of all of the presents I could have ended up with over the years.  Me and my silly virtues.  For the record, you don’t bring gifts to Thanksgiving.  It’s a massive meal (think an early Christmas dinner), usually followed by a lot of bloated people gathered around a TV watching American football.

My favourite thing, though, has to be how freaked out they are by the food.  Really traditional Brits tend not to mix sweet and savoury food.  Ever.  The idea freaks them out.  Sure, the more relaxed  of your English cooks will be a bit more adventurous, but they still can’t hold a candle to the concoctions you’ll find on an American table at Thanksgiving.  Americans seem to make EVERYTHING sweet and savoury.  Baked beans with brown sugar, sweet potato casserole with vanilla extract and sugar, Pumpkin Pie with cinnamon and spices…oh and sugar.  So many of my sweet British friends who have joined us for Thanksgiving over the years will say, ‘This is the WEIRDEST meal I’ve ever had, but I love it!’

Thank goodness for The Native's acute sense of smell -- I nearly lost this one.

As I sit here (and realize I forgot to reduce the heat while baking the first pumpkin pie – Argh!), I’m beginning to reflect on all of the good, amazing, INCREDIBLE things that have happened this year that make me so thankful — that just may be sprinkled with a bit of reflection on how much I’m looking forward to digging into that cheeseball.

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13 thoughts on “Thanksgiving amongst Brits

  1. lowimpactmama

    Great post! I’m married to an American (I’m Irish, though we live in London) so we celebrate Thanksgiving too…though on Saturday instead of taking time off work Looking forward to a big turkey dinner and lots of sweet dishes! Happy thanksgiving 🙂

    Reply
  2. Lindsay Borland

    B – i think the friends question is because people remember the Thanksgiving episode where one of the 6 sticks the turkey on their head … the only reason i know this is because it was one of the first questions i got about Thanksgiving my first year in NZ and i was so confused what they were talking about. SO proud of you for picking yourself up and making it the Dutchess’ best first Thanksgiving ever!

    Reply
  3. MmeLindor

    Thanks for the info. I am cooking my first ever Thanksgiving Meal later today, for and with our American friends.

    I would never have asked the Friends question because I am the ONLY 30something woman in the developed world who has never watched an episode of Friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Impressive. I got away with it until I moved to England and then weirdly it became this thing that helped me feel like America wasn’t so far away, so I watched it all of the time! Wish I could’ve offered you some advice on cooking turkey breasts (saw your tweet), but have only done the full bird before. Have a really happy Thanksgiving! Hope somebody is bringing the sweet potato casserole. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Sheila Herd

    That’s interesting, I’ve often wondered about Thanksgiving and in a way when I hear about it I’m just relieved we don’t do it here just before the pressure of Christmas as well!!

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Haha. Indeed. My friends here always say they feel as though they are getting two Christmas dinners. I don’t think we go as full out for the Christmas meal as we do for Thanksgiving. Perhaps that’s what people mean when they ask if Thanksgiving is bigger than Christmas…they mean in terms of food.

      Reply
      1. Liz

        Oh my, yes. Thanksgiving is “the meal” of the year in the States! I actually didn’t prepare apple pie this year- pumpkin pie and my first strawberry pie. I just made 36 deviled eggs (which my husband will probably eat… 35 of them!), my banana bread is baked, and tomorrow I have the turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and the cranberry sauce! I can’t wait!!!

        We’re not football fans at all, so no falling asleep to the TV tomorrow :)~

  5. awindram

    A marshmallow topping on sweet potato is where I end up all culturally discombobulated. Thankfully I, the non-American, do the cooking in our household so Thanksgiving dinner is very much my inauthentic take on it. That means cranberry sauce is allowed but only if its freshly made and not that gloop that comes out of a can, marshmallows are banned from being near root vegetables and I also put a few British additions in there – Yorkshire puddings and bread sauce usually.

    Reply

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