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What the f*** is Thanksgiving?

On November 24th, millions of Americans tucked in to what the British people might consider to be shabby rendition of their infamous Christmas lunch.

Thanksgiving Day traditionally kicks off the American “holiday season.” Wrapped up with Halloween and Yuletide festivities, many Americans consider “Turkey Day” to be as important as Christmas itself.

In fact, more people in the United States celebrate the secular holiday than Christmas. In a holiday with an immense divide and variation between church and state, it is accessible for all.

Thanksgiving Day can originally be traced back to 1621. At the Plymouth Plantation, religious refugees from England (the Pilgrims), invited local Native America to a harvest feast after an abundant growing season. The Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to maximize the fertile soils of the New World, sharing knowledge on how to grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters) and also how to catch fish and seafood.

(Photo Credit: http://www.thanksgiving.com/thanksgiving-activities/thanksgiving-history…)


Ironically, according to historical accounts, turkey was never recorded on the menu. Instead, the three-day feast included goose, lobster, cod and deer.

Contemporary Thanksgiving dishes are similar to a British Christmas Lunch, omitting “pigs in blanket,” parsnips, sprouts, strange fruity puddings lit on fire and, quite frankly, the excessive lashings of heavy booze.

Stuffing, pecan pies, pumpkin pies, white gravy (??), sweet potatoes smothered in maple syrup, sweet cranberry sauce and corn bread are elements of this Americanized cuisine. Tater-tots, casseroles and, warm “biscuits” (what we might consider to be savoury scones) can also feature.

What about us?

Let’s be honest. We don’t really care about Thanksgiving. Apart from the odd “Friends” special, it falls on the long list of American things we neither understand nor care about.

While the more philanthropic individuals might take some non-perishable canned goods to the local parish, or even do the odd pumpkin home-bake, Thanksgiving is definitely not the plentiful, extravagant, belt-loosening affair that it is in the United States.

However, as a small island that loves an excuse to stuff it’s face with rich meats and alcohol, we have re-translated this holiday in a number of different ways. While we may not give a toss about The Pilgrims (they left us after all), we do like a rowdy dinner party. So, here are some ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving, the British way.


  1. Friendsgiving

Christmas is stressful, for everyone involved. Presents, strange rituals and family reunions are some of the more sweat-inducing elements of this time of year. Friendsgiving is the opportunity to have a low-key, pre-Christmas celebration with your friend, most likely involving poorer quality food (Indian takeaway) and cheap wine. However, if you want to be even more lazy, go to the pub and make a sarcastic event on Facebook.


(Photo Credit: http://www.thanksgiving.com/thanksgiving-activities/thanksgiving-history…)

2. Turkey Trot

Fitness fanatic? Meat sweats? What better way to assume superiority over others than running while they’re gorging? Sign up to a local run with friends and dress like a Turkey/Pilgrim/Native American.  

3. Stop Being Bitter

Americans, notoriously, don’t understand (nor particularly appreciate) British cynicism. Time to ditch the stiff upper lip and take one day off from heavy sarcasm. Our natural instinct to mock Thanksgiving and use dry humour to control a situation ought to be put aside. Instead, adopt an American sincerity and “softness”, you might find yourself to be a walking, talking, smiling spirit of Thanksgiving Day.  


Zoe Thompson

Bristol '18

President of Her Campus Bristol.
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