Thursday, November 25, 2021

Other Views


I’ve seen more people this year posting “Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.” That must be startling to those who always thought that everyone in the US celebrates Thanksgiving, that it’s a blanket holiday for all Americans. But, as the truth about the origins of the day becomes more and more widely known, it’s not surprising that feelings and practices centered on the day are changing.

As each “traditional” holiday rolls around I find myself drawn more and more to exploring the celebrations of people who are not a part of the dominant culture. It isn’t enough for me to perpetuate what I know already. In recent years I have become keenly aware of how much I don’t know. Seven years ago I wrote about how photographs on social media introduced me to different views of how people celebrate Thanksgiving. (“The Invisible Gravy Boat”, November 24, 2014)

This year I’m thinking a lot about my Jewish friends as they undertake to celebrate Thanksgiving with Hanukkah beginning just a few days later. And that brought to mind the Thanksgiving feast that students and teachers made for parents at Bet Yeladim Preschool, where I worked in the Before Times. It was all of the feast except the turkey because BY was a kosher facility. I remember how odd it felt to me but it wasn’t the least bit strange to many of our families. 

While attempting to learn more about the Jewish experience of Thanksgiving in the US I came across a children’s book called “Not This Turkey!” by Jessica Steinberg. It tells the story of an immigrant family whose lives are changed when the father wins the workplace raffle for a Thanksgiving turkey.

I won’t say any more, so as not to spoil it for you. There are three (unexceptional) read aloud versions available on YouTube. I am sorry to say that it is not available at the Howard County Library. However, I highly recommend this short video by author Jessica Steinberg, which introduces the book and its themes.

You can read more about how the book came about in this piece by Penny Schwartz from The Times of Israel.

I’m sharing all this because I am on a journey to keep learning about people and cultural experiences I have too long been ignorant about. Of course that doesn’t mean I assume that my readers are ignorant. As always I am reaching out to you for any insight and perspective you have to offer. 

Yesterday my doctor and I discussed our upcoming holiday plans. She described how she would be preparing the turkey and then added, with a smile, “of course my mother will want all her Nigerian dishes.” I immediately wondered what that would look like and what kinds of flavors, textures, and aromas would be blending with the “traditional” roast turkey.

What will your Thanksgiving look like? Have you ever participated in a Thanksgiving celebration that was much different than your own?

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. And, as author Connie Schultz puts so wisely. “For those who are struggling, may the day land gently.”

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