There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Family & Friends

*I normally post something about Thanksgiving every year, especially for readers outside of the U.S. or the U.K. who aren't familiar with this wonderful and very American holiday. This morning I read from someone who lives in Britain that America has 'nothing to celebrate today', because of events in the past few weeks. I would have to humbly yet ardently disagree. 

American citizens have much to celebrate as we always have. Things that are good and eternal and meaningful, no matter the world events. We celebrate the love of family, the giving spirit, a grateful heart, and all of the things that connect us through time and space--the eternal flame of love & the human spirit, which nothing can put out.

Our Father, Mother, Spirit we thank
you for food and remember the hungry.
We thank you for health and 
remember the sick.
We thank you for friends and 
remember the friendless.
We thank you for freedom and 
remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
that these gifts may be used for others.  Amen.

There is one day that is ours. 
There is one day when all we
Americans who are not self-made
go back to the old home to eat
saleratus biscuits and marvel how
much nearer to the porch the
old pump looks than it used to.
Thanksgiving Day is the one
day that is purely American. 
~O. Henry

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Here in Oxford I 'll put a small turkey in the oven in a few hours and the pumpkin pie is cooling on the sideboard. Turkey and pumpkin pie--the two staples of any Thanksgiving dinner, no matter where you are in the world. As we're in Britain, we'll also have to have the compulsory and ubiquitous brussel sprouts.

Pumpkin pie~just an
excuse to eat nutmeg.
~Garrison Keillor

Every fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day for all of my family and friends back home in the U.S.  At least for me, and perhaps for many Americans living scattered around the world, it's one of the hardest days to be so far from loved ones. Thanksgiving just doesn't translate well outside of the U.S., if at all.  So I miss it. Very much.

So once in every year we throng
Upon a day apart, 
To praise the Lord with feast and song 
In thankfulness of heart. 
~Arthur Guiterman, The First Thanksgiving

It's not an easily exported holiday because Thanksgiving is uniquely American.  Early American settlers celebrated days of thanksgiving in the early years of the colonies, but it was more a harvest celebration than a holiday. Then in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the official federal holiday and a day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, 
the celebration of work and the simple life....
a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry 
of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime 
and harvest, the ripe product of the year — 
and the deep, deep connection of all 
these things with God.
 ~Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)

The true origins of the first thanksgiving celebrations are debated by many historians, but one of the earliest celebrations of harvest and thanksgiving was in 1610, at Jamestown, North America's first permanent settlement.  Most Americans still equate Thanksgiving to the early settlement at Plymouth Plantation, in what's now Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the pilgrims' three day celebration after their first successful harvest.

Give thanks for unknown
blessings already on their way. 
~Native American Saying

There is a calmness
to a life
lived in gratitude.
~Ralph H. Blum

Even though it may not have even been served at the first thanksgiving celebrations, turkey is the dish most identified with the modern holiday. Turkey didn't start to dominate the Thanksgiving table until the mid-19th century and before that, the turkey shared the groaning table with other fowl and meat, like this menu from 1779.  Aside from the squash, pumpkin, and corn, it's like any British menu from the 18th century.
Haunch of Venison
Roast Chine of Pork
Roast Pigeon, Turkey, and Goose Pasties
Onions in Cream, Cauliflower, and Squash
Mincemeat, Pumpkin, and Apple Pie
Indian Pudding (a corn pudding and my favourite!) 
Plum Pudding (like the English Christmas Pudding)

Beside the turkey, a few of the things on this menu still grace the Thanksgiving table today, but we've added sweet potatoes or yams, cranberries, and mashed potatoes. The turkey is stuffed with a dressing of breadcrumbs, chestnuts, or cornbread, and turkey gravy made from the drippings is for smothering the mashed potatoes. It's not all that different from the British 'Christmas Lunch'.  

Thanksgiving dinners take
eighteen hours to prepare.
They are consumed in
twelve minutes. Half-times
take twelve minutes.
This is not coincidence.
~Erma Bombeck

I've cooked many, many Thanksgiving dinners and by now an array of pumpkin, apple, mince & pecan pies would be baked & cooled, (bread) rolls would be filling the house with good smells, and the refrigerator groaning with everything that had been prepared for the big day. On Thanksgiving morning I was always the first one up, the turkey stuffed and in the oven by 10am, and then I'd start in on the rest of the feast.

Our Oxford Thanksgiving is modified just a bit, but now stores like Waitrose have much of their Christmas holiday dishes available for Thanksgiving too, knowing how many Yanks live in the U.K. Some things I have to hunt down, like cranberries and pumpkin, but the 'American Food' section at Tesco has canned pumpkin (horrifyingly along with Pop-Tarts, Lucky Charms & Twinkies--what MUST people think of us!). The one thing I miss most is Crisco which, along with the old, old Betty Crocker recipe, makes the best pie crust in the world. But as I've learned to do so well since moving to England, I make do, adjust, make it work, or sometimes just let it go. A feast is still a feast on Thanksgiving Day.

To an American, Thanksgiving is family and friends gathering, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, football--either in the backyard or on TV, far too much food, and has never been as commercialised as Christmas. There's been more and more of an effort every year to keep it that way, with stores closing on Thanksgiving Day and encouraging people to #gooutside on Black Friday, rather than shopping.

In the U.S. it's also the official start of the Christmas season. Christmas trees and lights start appearing at Thanksgiving and the holiday season of Christmas and New Year gets into full swing. But for a Christmas lover like I am, even though I miss being home for Thanksgiving, the one thing I do love is that without Thanksgiving, Christmas appears a little earlier in the U.K. My philosophy is that you can never have too much good cheer, too many Christmas carols, or too many lights on a tree.

Dear Lord; we beg but one boon more: 
Peace in the hearts of all men living, 
peace in the whole world this Thanksgiving. 
~Joseph Auslander

Happy Thanksgiving, across the miles and a big wide ocean, to all my family, friends, loved ones and fellow countrymen.  As we smell our roasting turkey and make the well in our mashed potatoes for the gravy, we'll be missing all of you back home. If you're alone on Thanksgiving, I know how lonely it can be sometimes and I hope you can find a gladdened heart in the simplest of joys, and share a grateful heart with someone near to you. If you're a family gathered around the table, remember the common ground and the shared histories that bind a family together. Hold on tight to that.

Happy Thanksgiving from Oxford, from Stuart, Jack and I, to everyone around the world--we share a heart full of thanks and love.

For each new morning with its light, 
For rest and shelter of the night, 
For health and food, for love and friends, 
For everything Thy goodness sends. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Happy Thanksgiving Carrie, Stuart and Jack!
    What a beautifully written post you have shared. I am not American but lived there for many years and looked forward to this day with great anticipation. It is such a special day, and I wish with all my heart we had such a day in Britain, for giving thanks. I think that for those of us who live our lives on the path of gratitude this day is even more exceptionally special. Even though I celebrate alone, I do not feel alone for I have the memories of Thanksgivings past when my house and heart were full to overflowing; I have the friendship of many across this beautiful planet of ours; this year, I have your friendship to add to the list of things for which I am grateful.

    1. Thank you for the Thanksgiving wishes Deborah, and for you wonderful thoughts. Friendship and kindred hearts are certainly things that will hold us all together in these days of division and uncertainty--and I'm grateful for your friendship. One day we WILL be out to see you in one of our favourite spots in Britain. Thank you for taking the time to stop by. xxxooo

  2. Wonderful post, Carrie. I so agree! We ALL have much to be thankful for which rises above the difficulties and differences. Our faith in God has always superceded everything else, and all the bounty of this wonderful country is still ours. Gene and I are celebrating alone together and so thankful for all we have, and as Deborah says, we have each other and that wonderful friendship across the miles. So thankful to add your friendship to my list, too. Jane xo

    1. Thank you so much as always Jane, for your loving and kind thoughts and shared friendship. Stuart and I have been celebrating all of those things too, across the miles, with all of you back home. Thanksgiving was born out of division--so more than ever it's a time to unite in friendship and gratitude. xxxooo

  3. A lovely tribute to Thanksgiving and what it signifies, Carrie. It was a very nice way to end our day. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Cathy. It's so important to remember just how much we all share, how much common ground we have. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and I'm so glad I could be a small part of it. xxxooo