Why I (as a Canadian) Love American Thanksgiving

Aside from the amazing Black Friday sales, there is much to love about American Thanksgiving. As a Canadian, I’ve had the good fortune of sitting down to eat turkey with several American friends, both stateside and abroad.

Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated in mid-October on a Monday, giving us Canucks a much-needed repose to gather our strength for the upcoming onslaught of winter. It is often celebrated with little to no fanfare, but with a simple festive feast – a sampling of what’s to come at Christmas if you will.

But in America, Thanksgiving is a big celebration; grocery stores stock the shelves with traditional treats and there are parades and line-ups at the airports. I remember a friend in Boston telling me that Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel weekend in America.  I believe it.

As American Thanksgiving approaches this year, I find myself feeling nostalgia about the holiday. Living back in Canada now, we celebrated our Thanksgiving Canuck-style- read: low key last month. It was small and simple – no fanfare to speak of. It was nothing like the first Thanksgivings we had in Boston where we had been invited by friends to join them in an afternoon filled with family, food and fireworks (yes, fireworks!) There were piles of pies, mountains of meat (sorry my vegetarian & vegan friends) and lots of laughter – a perfect introduction to a new holiday and new friends.

Before Boston, we were living in Tokyo. There, we had become friends with an American couple and I was teaching at the American School in Japan. I can still remember my colleagues reminiscing about Thanksgivings spent stateside, and their heartfelt attempts to re-create the holiday while living in a foreign country. They talked a lot about food but also about traditions.

Americans often get an unwarranted reputation for being big and brash. As someone who has lived in seven countries and travelled to several more, I think it’s fair to say that it is individuals, not countries or cultures that create the stereotypes. It’s easy to judge and criticize; but it’s not right. In every country I’ve lived in, it has often times been the Americans who welcome us with open arms.

In Japan, it was our friends Jeff & Lisa who first made us feel a little less alone, and then later for me, it was at the school where I finally felt connected and with a sense of purpose after a very long year of unemployment and feeling unfulfilled. The American community in a sense is what saved me from leaving Tokyo and my husband for a job in Hawaii.

This year, my husband and I were contemplating a long drive south of the border for American Thanksgiving. It most likely won’t happen as life with two little ones has put a temporary pause on road trips over four hours. We will, however, try our best to re-create the experience here at home. There will be no fireworks but there will be a turkey, pumpkin pie and lots of love and laughter.

Have you ever celebrated Thanksgiving overseas?  How did you re-create the holiday?