Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse. — Henry Van Dyke
Settling in a new country is, on balance, very rewarding. Facing a new culture day to day,however, may not routinely offer up its reward so readily. There are so many differences, in almost every aspect of life, that you notice and ultimately must adjust to. And Thanksgiving certainly ranks as an “adjustment.”
I believe that I am an open minded person and moving here to Northwest Ohio has certainly broadened my perspective. However, he entire energy that surrounds Thanksgiving has challenged even my frame of reference. I must admit that prior to writing this article, my knowledge about Thanksgiving was very limited to images produced by Hollywood: TURKEY TIME! And, that wishbone thing, which still seems a little odd.
Does Fried or Roasted Matter?
As a Middle Eastern woman I have a special view of “thanksgiving”. There are many cultural mores in the Middle East that specify exactly when and how you get together with your family for a good meal. Those norms are simple: we do “thanksgiving” every Friday at dinner. It seemed to me that banishing a good meal with family to only once a year was a
real loss and an unfortunate result of American culture.
Before anyone gets upset let me explain. My vision Thanksgiving was limited to hearsay and commercial advertising. As someone who didn’t want that perception to stand, I turned to a few good friends for guidance. Why does a dinner around a table need so much fuss? Why do people hunt the stores for the best deals on turkey? What is it with this holiday that calls for a whole nation to take time off, arrive exactly on time and have that roasted vs. fried turkey debate? When did green beans drowned in canned soup become a thing? How did American Football get into the story of a holiday about the early settling of the New World? Did they even have turkey at the first Thanksgiving?
I did not understand. My family and I have gathered around a table weekly for as long as I can remember, but we never asked for a national holiday to do it. It is what it is; on Friday, you bring your family over and eat dinner and have dessert, chit chat and go your way. What am I missing?
I first turned into my dear friend Amanda, who has lived for years in the Middle East and had the perfect perspective on both cultures. She has opened my eyes on a key difference. People on this side of the world mostly move out of their parents’ homes at an early age and often move to different states, which I now know is not a close distance. Thanksgiving is a holiday that most of the country gets off, and hence, the one time they can all come back home and be with their families, catch up, break bread and feel that warmth, feel that comes from being home. I compare that to my homeland where you never really move out of home until you are married, and even afterwards, you live in the same city most of the time. Even if you move away, you are rarely more than a 3 hour drive.
Chris tells me Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. He loves what it represents, the food that only seems to get served during the fall, and how in Kansas, where he grew up, “harvest” always had a special meaning. Debby loves that this is the one time she can count on her children and their families to be home, how she loves creating traditions for her granddaughters year after year and the casual family photo they take annually before dinner at a nearby park.
It was Kelli that put it in the best way possible and I quote a part of her words: “I view the holiday as a day to refrain from work and enjoy time with those I love. I give thanks for the many wonderful blessings I have in my life.” and “ It also gives us an opportunity to see those loved ones that we don’t see often, because again, it’s a national holiday so it’s expected that we all observe the day together, most people don’t have to work at their jobs.”
A day to refrain from work, a time to create traditions, a time to celebrate and a time to be together. I admit, before writing these words, I could not have known this on my own. This I can relate to, as it has been a little over two years since I had a delicious Friday dinner with any of my family members back in the Middle East. I will not lie, I do not miss the ongoing bickering with them; apparently some family dynamics transcend cultural boundaries. I do miss the way everyone seemed happy around a table, enjoying a bite together, setting all our differences aside and just making memories. Yes, now I understand what the fuss is all about!
There are even a few dishes that I refrained from cooking because those dishes, just like a turkey, require a table full of people to enjoy. So, what is my point ? It is that I have learned more about the spirit of Thanksgiving in the past two weeks than I had known about it my entire life. I am thankful for the friends who took time out of their busy days to educate me and refresh my perspective. Now, which of you peeps is going to invite me over? (just kidding!)
Wishing you and your family a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.
Don’t forget to keep checking the calendar and features on www.rightsizelife.com for the latest events of the season.
Nida Ammar is the the Communications Lead for CCTRONIC, a design engineering firm focusing on helping farmers and agriculture producers improve their output and efficiency while preserving and respecting the environment. She is also a regular contributor for RSL, including feature articles and providing information for Shoppers on Site. When not writing Nida rides herd on her two kids, one husband and lives in downtown Toledo.