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Today is Thanksgiving in Canada but our family celebrated yesterday. I don’t remember ever having had turkey dinner on the Monday–always Sunday. Another thing–it hasn’t always been turkey dinner. My mother has been known to cook a goose, a ham, or even duck as the main dish at our annual Thanksgiving feast, just to break the routine. Mind you, there are always a lot of other dishes at the table, like cabbage rolls, homemade sausage and sometimes–if my grandma is cooking–even perogies. To some, it may seem like a sacrilege to forgo turkey on Thanksgiving, but on these occasions I can’t say that I’ve ever really missed it.
Here’s the thing about being an immigrant. No matter how long you live in your country of choice, that country’s holidays never really seem yours. A holiday is something you adopt, perhaps keep forever, but you never call it your own. Coming from a farming community in Eastern Europe, my parents are no strangers to celebrating the harvest. Autumn is a time when friends and family often come together to share the bounties of the season. There are many rites and rituals associated with this special time of year, but there is no particular holiday reserved for its celebration. Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is always an excuse for the family to get together and eat a lot of food. Until recently, I gave little pause to what I was thankful for as I loaded my plate with cranberry sauce and my mother’s chestnut and apple stuffing.
But I think that there is something about getting older and hopefully wiser that has made me appreciate the importance of rituals such as holidays. They connect us with the people that are important to us. They are passages in life that make us more fully human. This year in some way was not the easiest. The economy hit a lot of people hard, me included, and it’s hard not to wonder almost constantly how long it will take to get better. Yet yesterday it was easy to focus on what I did have: my family, my health, great friends. Since last year we have had a new addition to family, my beautiful nephew. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s big new house with a feast worthy of some of those harvest days back in Europe. With all that food, eaten with the people I love, it would have been difficult not to feel thankful.