Monday, 8 October 2007

Happy Thanksgiving etc.

Things are a little slow getting started here this morning. Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and for the last several years we've had an informal buffet for friends and family. There were about 40 here last night, ranging in age from 2 to 82. Great fun for us and much good food, since everybody brings something. We do a turkey, a couple of chickens and some vegies, and the rest depends on the whims of whomever happens to be cooking.

We are not believers in anything except the necessity to treat others with respect, but it is not a bad idea once a year to pause and reflect on how much we have. That puts everything in proper perspective: we have been--and continue to be--truly fortunate.

Both Lee and I grew up in the US where Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for family get-togethers in the year. Part of that is because it crosses religious and ethnic lines so everyone participates, and part is due to the way the holiday is talked about in schools. The first Thanksgiving is part of the American myth, and--if you read Charles C. Mann's 1491--completely false. Nevertheless I have always like the good fellowship surrounding this holiday: we stopped celebrating in November after the first year or so we were here, but we've always tried to do something around the idea of a harvest feast to share with others.

The Canadian version of Thanksgiving--
Action de grâce in Québec--comes earlier in the year (the second Monday in October) and the historical precedents are a meal of Thanksgiving which Martin Frobisher had in 1578. For various reasons, Thanksgiving has never been as big a holiday here, which is why we have found it a great time to have invite friends: people don't have special plans and they seem to be charmed by the idea of breaking bread together.

But maybe that ought to change. At the moment there is much talk in Quebec about integration of ethnic and religious groups in the larger Québécois society--"reasonable accommodation" is the buzz phrase. It might be time to put more emphasis here on a secular fête which can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what they believe or where they come from.


Martin Langeland said...

Definitely keep the Thanksgiving secular -- a reminder that we should all work to ensure that everyone does have a life to be thankful for.
But Please never move it to grim No Vember. With Christmas making noises in the media before even Halloween (a substantial retail fete all by itself) Thanksgiving in the US is fast fading to oblivion. Much better in the Canadian order. Thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest; Guy Fawkes to celebrate a parliamentary democracy; and then Christmas to celebrate the fact that there may indeed be someone -- anyone -- else in the universe besides 'me'.
A happy recovery to one and all!

Mary Soderstrom said...

The French call November le mois des morts, partly because it starts with All Souls' Day. But a large measure of the name's appropriateness is the fact that November is such a blah month. Usually cold, gray and rainy here, with some snow that you know is unlikely to last. Yes, better to have a feast in October's bright blue weather.