Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving In South Africa

South Africans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, nor do we have an equivalent to this uniquely American tradition.

I’ve been privileged to experience Thanksgiving with family and friends for each of the fourteen years that I’ve lived in America. This year, we’re in South Africa. I feel oddly disoriented.

It seems strange to be surrounded by Christmas trees and all things Christmas this early in November, as the country gears up for the holidays. It’s as though a crucial step has been skipped. I want to let everybody know what they’re missing. I want to say that Thanksgiving is a wonderful way to prepare for December and the end of another year; whether we celebrate Christmas or not. I want to explain how, every year on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans join together around bountiful tables to share a meal of Turkey with all the trimmings, celebrating their ties to people they love and giving thanks for their blessings - without the stresses and strains brought on by excessive commercialization.

Christmas is big in South Africa - the major celebration of the year, in this predominantly Christian country. Here, November is merely a warm-up in the race to Christmas and the New Year. Without the grace note of Thanksgiving, it’s a dizzyingly fast course.

With the zeal of a convert, I want to spread the message of Thanksgiving far and wide: We all have something to be thankful for, we all deserve the opportunity to celebrate our gratitude together with all of our fellow countrymen, in an atmosphere of tolerance and goodwill. What better way to do this than with a national holiday like Thanksgiving?

May we all experience such a hopeful tradition.

Thanksgiving, as we know it today, could be one of America’s best gifts to the world.

Postscript:  This post first appeared November 21, 2009.


  1. In UK, it's a fast downhill to Christmas once November 5th (Guy Fawkes) has passed and I dislike that. I prefer to ignore Christmas until the beginning of December.

    Since reading posts by American bloggers I have become much more aware of Thanksgiving and it does appear to have much to recommend it.

  2. Thanksgiving is a big thing for Americans, I have learned that much. On the whole, it sounds very much like Christmas: people visit their folks and eat and drink.

    Are there as many family rows during Thanksgiving as there are at Christmas over here?

    I know from family who live in American that Christmas is less of a big deal over there.

  3. You bring a wonderful, fresh perspective to this holiday, which those of us who grew up with it can come to take a bit for granted. Interesting, too, to get Christine's and Friko's takes on this quintessentially American holiday.

  4. Raining Acorns said...
    Hilary Melton Butcher, who has a wonderful blog, has also lived in Southern Africa. She wrote about it here. In response, she has written a lovely note to Carol-Ann that she has asked me to post for her:

    Hi Raining Acorns - Susan - sent me over to have a read from your perspective .. as a Brit having lived in SA for many years.

    Having grown up with Autumn approaching and the fall of the leaves, November 5th and Bonfire night .. that is always wonderful in its build up; then we have the Remembrance Day services .. this year it will be 11.11.11 ... and that is always a time to remember.

    Then come the Carol Service practices, the thinking about presents, making of Christmas pudding and cake - spicy smells around the house .. there's a build up - to bringing in the tree about a week before Christmas and then the decorations, wrapping presents etc .. Christmas Eve and Christmas stockings, Church on Christmas Day ..

    To my mind sufficient for us to reflect - without today's constant rush, hustle, bustle -

    Halloween only recently started making inroads, and we don't do Thanksgiving ..

    Life gets out of kilter and we never seem to appreciate anything .. then January appears - usually cold and dark and life is a little bit of a let down ..

    I like to enjoy the festive spirit .. and when in South Africa we did what we do here except in the heat!!

    Cheers - interesting to read your take on Thanksgiving .. great institution for the States and Canada - there's is earlier isn't it.

    Enjoy the festive season - I know I will .. cheers Hilary


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