When I was younger, I didn’t see the point of celebrating Thanksgiving. Not that there’s anything to object to in its purest intention, but I’m not American, and I didn’t live in the US. Then there was the Native American perspective, and I didn’t see why I should endorse yet another example of general Americanization of global culture
Yeah, as you’ve probably guessed, I was young and full of angst, and I do know there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a harvest or being grateful after a drought. I guess I just didn’t understand the large, obnoxious form of commercialisation it was associated with, and the ‘cheesiness’ that went with it. You know, posing next to a giant turkey and stuff(ing).
Things are vastly different now that I have children. This changes everything and I can recognize the merit of this holiday more clearly. So, to cheesiness I say ‘bring it on,’ I’ve dressed as an elf to hand out presents, as now I am all about getting into the theme of things.
Seriously though, as the kids get older, I’m more conscious about what we should or should not celebrate, and the meaning around it all. Even though Thanksgiving isn’t part of our family’s background or culture, I’ve been thinking about it given we (ironically) have more exposure to it in China. My husband and I also happened to meet at a Thanksgiving dinner in Singapore 15 years ago and since then we have had our two beautiful girls, and live a busy and interesting life. For this I am grateful, and want to seize any opportunities to celebrate as a family.
The question is, how to do this given we’re not American and don’t officially celebrate this holiday? One suggestion was to build a ‘thankfulness’ tree and everyone writes a leaf a day about something they are grateful for. I loved the idea, but looking at Pinterest gave me a headache, (not to mention VPN rage), as I’m not the crafty (nor patient) type. ‘Build a tree, what, how?’
So, my solution is ‘Friendsgiving.’ I know the concept isn’t unique or exciting, Millennials invented it yada yada, and I’m probably too old to jump on that bandwagon. In China though, it works. Nobody goes ‘back home’ for the holiday and Friendsgiving was invented precisely because young Americans living in the ‘big cities’ didn’t have the money or inclination to go back home (did you ever watch that Friends episode?). Some had broken families and it was too complicated, and others simply found it too stressful or expensive, so they celebrated with like-minded friends. Now, it’s become more of a ‘thing’ where people have two celebrations – one with friends and the other ‘real’ holiday with family. Once a store-bought food and paper plate affair, now it can be sophisticated with proper chinaware and caterers thoughtfully providing takeaway boxes. It’s perfect for us! I’ll even provide the dabao boxes since we are ‘catering,’ but not with fancy chinaware as that is a fool's errand in a house with a 2 year old.
The point is, after 2.5 years in China, it’s a good opportunity to celebrate a few things; not least that my husband is actually in town this year so we can host, we have friends to invite and a giant turkey is currently defrosting. My wish is for our kids to learn that while giving thanks should ideally be done all the time, sometimes it just takes an occasion as a reminder to appreciate what’s around us – family, friends, food and fun.
It can be the things you take for granted that are the best. You know, the things you maybe once thought were a little cheesy!
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