I’ll say one thing about America and her citizens, no country does holiday quite like the United States. Regardless of how you feel about the US that’s something that can’t be denied. I don’t know if it’s the diverse population, consumerist culture, the fact that our holidays revolve around the consumption of alcohol, or our “bigger is better” mentality. Whatever the reason there’s no better place to be than America for the holidays.
I was in Australia for “Australia Day” and I can’t tell you how excited I was. In my head it was going to rival the best Fourth of July I’d ever had. Maybe it was because I was working on a cruise ship, but I was utterly disappointed. Instead or rivaling it, it was more like if the 4th of July had a baby cousin, twice removed. I expected fireworks and ridiculous shenanigans. I got neither.
Then again it should come as no surprise that the country that puts such an emphasis on things like “freedom” “democracy” and being “back to back World War champs” would be tough to compete with in regards to its’ birthday celebration. If you give an American an inch they’ll take a mile. The last thing we need is an excuse to drink excessively, light shit on fire, and spend most of the day by the lake.
But this isn’t about the 4th of July. And it’s not about American being “better” than other place. For what it’s worth, I don’t really think that any place is “better” than any another. Depending on what you are looking for you can find good basically anywhere. Each country has its pros and its cons. Each place has things you fall in love with and things that make you shake your head because the apocalypse has to be near.
No this is about one thing I think America does better than anywhere else.
Most people think that Thanksgiving is strictly an American holiday but it’s not. Liberia, The Netherlands, Norfolk Island and Canada all celebrate things similar to American Thanksgiving. And yes, I know that a lot of shall we say sketchy things have happened over the years involving the Native Americans and the just landed Pilgrims’ decedents. But in comparison to all the other holidays we celebrate in America it’s still the most pure.
When I’m abroad and people ask me about America and our holidays my eyes light up when I talk about Thanksgiving. There’s just something about it that’s always been special to me. Each year my family gets together, eats turkey, have a few drinks, watch football, and play cards. Nothing special but just something I’ve always enjoyed.
But one of the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever celebrated happened this past year. I was on the cruise ship and feeling kind of down about missing Thanksgiving with my family. There were a few other Americans on the ship that were feeling the same way. Luckily for me, my favorite nurse Jodi, had a plan. They had extended her contract an extra few weeks but she said she’d only stay if she could throw a Thanksgiving meal in the officer’s mess. They agreed. Next thing I know I’m celebrating Thanksgiving dinner with 14 other people only 2 of whom were Americans. It really added to my belief of why Thanksgiving is special.
Going around the table Jodi explained that on Thanksgiving in America each person has to say what they are thankful for before we can start eating. Hearing my friends from places like Poland, New Zealand, Russia, and South Africa, amongst others, say what mattered to each of them really helped me to understand how similar we all are.
Yes we may come from different places and speak different languages. We may believe in different religions and enjoy different sports. But our core values and what we appreciate tends to transcend national boundaries. Family, friends, employment, having food and shelter, are all things that we were mentioned on the ship and at every other Thanksgiving I’ve been apart of. Regardless of where we come from we all understand what really matters.
Sure, holidays like Christmas, the 4th of July, and Valentine’s Day, appeal to the consumer in us. We get to go out and buy things to help us feel like we’re celebrating the holiday properly. And other holidays such as New Years, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and Halloween, are fun (especially in your 20s) as they appeal to the party goer in us. We’re not looking for something to celebrate so much as looking for an excuse to black-out and make questionable decisions.
But Thanksgiving is the one holiday where the appreciation for what you have trumps the list of things you want. Where spending time with your family and friends matters more trying to hook up with a rando at the bar. And where it’s not only okay for you to wear your heart on your sleeve but it’s expected.
I don’t know why the stores go straight from selling Halloween costumes to Christmas trees and I don’t care. I just hope it stays that way. Because this is the most genuine holiday we Americans have. Free of presents, free of expectations, and free of obligation. All that’s required of you is to show up, be hungry, and be thankful.