Sunday, November 21, 2010
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.