Happy Thanksgiving from Ireland… a little late. 🙂
Since it’s obviously an American holiday, we don’t get a four-day weekend here, so I decided to move our celebrations to Sunday. We had a small crowd – just Frank’s parents and our niece, plus ourselves – and delaying it a few days gave me extra time to get the food and the house ready.
I’ve actually only done one “real” Thanksgiving since moving here, and that was in 2008 when we were newlyweds. I bought a massive fresh turkey from the butcher at the top of the hill and we had the whole family over, plus a few extra! I was pretty stressed out, although everything turned out well as I recall. The next year I was enormously pregnant, so I made a small version and it was horrible. Practically inedible. Last year, we had just gotten back from England, so I only attempted a turkey meatloaf and a pecan pie. So it was about time to pull out all the stops again for the holiday this time around, and I’m happy to report it went much more smoothly, though there were still a few mistakes. Grr. Just how it goes, eh?
Understandably, folks in Ireland just don’t seem to “get” Thanksgiving. I’m constantly asked around this time of year “What’s that Thanksgiving craic all about?” I usually chuckle some non-PC reply about how it celebrates our thankfulness for getting away from British rule… and maybe throw in a bit of history, at which point their eyes begin to glaze over. 🙂
Of course, I could just Wikipedia an answer and put it up here for my Irish readers, but would that really mean anything to you? Because that’s the ultimate question I get – “Why is Thanksgiving such a big deal to Americans? Why is it so important?”
So, at the risk of sounding like I’m giving a school report, here you go – What Thanksgiving Means to Me:
Thanksgiving means a lot of fun traditions – no school or work, watching the Macy’s Parade and Charlie Brown on TV (in the US), getting out the best dishes and serving ware, spending time with family and friends, welcoming the start of the Christmas season.
It means great food – roast turkey and homemade gravy, my grandma’s world-class stuffing, glistening cranberry sauce, buttery mashed potatoes, rich pecan or pumpkin pie (or cheesecake!), good wine, good coffee, full bellies.
I love all these parts of Thanksgiving.
But there’s something more that separates this holiday from all the others. It is a unique opportunity to look at my life and feel… thankful! Might sound cheesy, and I’ve never quite convinced the family here in Eire to go around the table saying what we’re all thankful for (hee hee, I can just imagine the reaction – “Thankful? In me hole! What a load of bollix.”)… and we’ve definitely never said Grace, which I really miss. But it doesn’t stop me from saying my private Thank yous for all the special things in my life.
I feel full to the brim with love for my family, friends, home and job. I am so grateful that I have wonderful in-laws just down the road who are such an important part of our baby’s life. I am thankful for Frank and Evey and Georgie and our close family bond. Hearkening back to the “old days,” I am thankful for my freedom, to work and live and worship the way I want to. I appreciate that I’ve had the chance to live abroad and make it here (sort of!), and also thankful for all the friends who have been so great at keeping in touch. I’m blown away by my parents and siblings who send great care packages and write and email and call just when I need to hear their caring voices. I thank God for all these things and more… and while I try to remember that every day, I’m more than happy to dedicate an entire day to the acknowledgement of these blessings.
I think Thanksgiving would be great if it caught on around the world. That’s one of the beauties of it – while it originated as a Christian celebration, it is actually a day anyone can celebrate, no matter what his/her beliefs. I’m really glad we take a day to just kick back, spend some time with people we love, be generous, eat good food, and get ready for the whirlwind month ahead. I think that’s why I enjoy cooking this big meal and going to all the trouble – it’s a way of thanking my family for all they’ve done through out the year and also thanking God that we have “enough,” and more, so that we can share. I think even the Pilgrims would agree, don’t you?
One more thing I’m thankful for is this super scrumptious new recipe for Cranberry Sauce I found in Woman & Home – Feel Good Food. Worth a second helping at Christmas, I’d say. 🙂
Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Feel Good Food magazine)
Place 400 grams (14oz.) fresh cranberries, 75ml (3fl oz) port, zest and juice 1 orange and 1 cinnamon stick in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the cranberries have burst. Stir in 75 grams (3 oz) granulated sugar until it has dissolved. Allow to simmer a few minutes more until thickened. Cool and transfer to serving dish. Chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight. Serve at room temperature.
I also discovered a great way to use up the leftover cranberry sauce, especially since I’m the one who seems to like it most in our house… try it over plain low fat yogurt with a sprinkling of granola (Pecan Crunch here) on top. Lovely! (You may need to add a bit of honey or sugar if you find plain yogurt too sour for your taste.)
Copyright 2011 Maryann Koopman Kelly