Discovering American Thanksgiving in Barcelona
Much like you, I always hear about how great Thanksgiving is. Over the years, friends of mine have moved to the USA and slowly but surely tales of American culture have filtered through to my British bubble. The truth is, however, even if you don’t know anybody who is from or lives in America, you will have probably heard about American Thanksgiving. But apart from knowing that it’s a day when Americans eat even more food than they normally do, do you know what Thanksgiving is all about?
I knew that Thanksgiving was a day to be thankful for everything and anything but it was only in 2009 that I actually experienced American Thanksgiving for myself!
You may be thinking this story is going to be similar to the time I told you about how I discovered The Fourth of July, but the truth is, I discovered American Thanksgiving in Barcelona! I was living with my friends Jason (ex-Wellington House English teacher) and his wife Naomi and another girl, Heather. All three of them were from Orange County California, a place I had only ever heard about in the movies. They were my housemates in the beautiful area of Sagrera, Barcelona. We had a small, old apartment and although ugly, we made it our home. A family of guiris living in Barcelona. I used to call it the Hotel California and sometimes I’d feel more like I was living in America than Spain!
We did everything we could to maintain our traditions and for them, American Thanksgiving was one of the big ones! Naomi even had American Thanksgiving products shipped to her because she couldn’t find everything in the Barcelona supermarkets. For me, it was my first American Thanksgiving and I found comfort in the friendly-family-warm kind of atmosphere and I reveled in their excitement. Being the only British person in the flat, I added a British tradition, wine!
What is American Thanksgiving about?
Back in 1620, a great deal of European Pilgrims moved to America where they felt their strict religious beliefs and traditions would be better accepted. However, a poor harvest that year resulted in the death of almost half of the Pilgrims. Luckily, the Native Americans supplied food to the Pilgrims and also taught them how to fish, keeping them alive. It is said that the European Pilgrims had always celebrated before and after the harvest season, to give thanks for what they received and it is also thought that the Native Americans did the same. It makes sense to think that after the tragic loss of half their people, Thanksgiving became a much more important time than it had perhaps been before.
In 1621, a fantastic harvest prompted the Plymouth feast and the Pilgrims invited a group of the Native Americans who had helped them through the difficult year. They spent three days eating and partying. They had fish, fruit, vegetables, venison and birds. The tradition was later continued by civil leaders but apparently, did not really spread to New England until the late 1660s.
What to eat for American Thanksgiving
Across America and indeed at Hotel California in Barcelona, we enjoyed a delicious feast of roast turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, a selection of roasted vegetables, baked biscuits and gravy. We also had a salad, which as a British person, I found strange. In fact, the American Thanksgiving meal I enjoyed with my friends from California was almost exactly what we have for Christmas dinner in Britain. My favorite part though, was the pumpkin pie. It was my first time and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be sweet or salty? I had only ever used pumpkins to decorate my house for Halloween, another American holiday! But the pumpkin pie was incredible! A thick pie, baked on a crusty pastry base. It’s sweet, but tasted like nothing I had ever had before. I highly recommend you try pumpkin pie if you ever get the chance! Yummy!
When is American Thanksgiving?
American Thanksgiving is a celebration of harvest. For that reason, it is traditionally celebrated in November. After the American Revolution, George Washington declared Novemeber 26th Thanksgiving but Franklin D. Roosevelt later changed the celebration to the fourth Thursday in November. This year (2011), Thanksgiving will be celebrated on the 24th of November. I don’t live at the Hotel California anymore and my Californian friends are back in California. Luckily though, my girlfriend, who Jason and Naomi introduced me to, is from California so I can continue to indulge in my favourite festive tradition, Pumpkin Pie!!!!
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