I was acquainted with the idea of Thanksgiving from what I had seen in my favorite American sitcoms. The notion of Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends was extremely western for me, and I never identified with it. Never thought I will be a part of it. In my two years spent on the western side of the globe, I have realized people usually reserve special occasions like these exclusively for the family. So when my colleague Roberta* graciously asked my family and me over for Thanksgiving dinner at her place, I was surprised and very happy! This was my first ever Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner.
I Knew Nothing About Thanksgiving
While the American Thanksgiving is more famous around the world, the Canadian Thanksgiving has separate roots. The invitation made me slightly embarrassed about how little I knew about the celebration, and I did what I do best – asked Google. Here’s what I learned.
In 1621, when the English landed on American soil in search of a “New England,” or new beginnings, the harsher climate perished all their native food and made them sick. The Wampanoag Indians saved the colonists. They taught them how to farm, how to survive, and what to eat. So during the first autumn harvest, the natives and the colonists shared a three-day meal. This marked the beginning of the Thanksgiving tradition.
However, Canadian Thanksgiving does not have similar roots. Much like harvest festivals celebrated across the world during this period, the Canadians show thankfulness for a bountiful harvest. Thus Canadian Thanksgiving is always celebrated on a Monday close to the first official day of Fall.
My dinner invitation was detailed and specified exactly what I needed to bring for the dinner. This was unique for my Desi sensibilities. It just seemed a lot more efficient and made me feel a part of the festival. It is a simple but beautiful gesture that imbibes togetherness.
My share was a meager platter of fruits. When I stepped into her home, I was greeted by the warm spicy aroma of the roasted turkey. There were kids playing around, and her family had gathered in the living room. I was meeting most of them for the first time. We got acquainted and exchanged cultural differences and similarities. And after a bit of chit chat dinner was announced.
Roberta* had cooked an authentic Thanksgiving dinner with all the traditional items. The feast comprised of pumpkin soup, roasted Turkey, mushroom stuffing, oven roasted potato and yam, with sour cream and homemade cranberry sauce, assorted vegetables.
Every item was delectable. She described how her three-year-old son had helped her with the prep. There was banter, and an air of merriment, as all the adults sat at the dinner table. Everyone had their plates full, and we all chatted as we slowly ate for over an hour. Wine glasses were refilled and second helpings were taken. Sauces were passed across table and recipes were discussed. And soon I forgot it was a place I had been for the first time. It felt like a family gathering, perhaps a cousins wedding or a get-together of kin.
New Friendships, Old Stories
I learned that Roberta’s mom migrated to Canada from Chile while she was a young girl, and she shared her story of being an immigrant. Her dad is an American, and he and his family had fled the Nazis from Germany. They shared how they met while working in Canada and how they were now married for 42 years.
The friends who were present also shared their story, the guy migrated from France to Quebec, and the lady was of French origin. My colleague’s husband, Charlie* is Chinese. So here we were all together in a dining table all from different parts of the world, celebrating the culture of the host nation that has become a part of all of our journeys. And nothing can be more authentic Canadian than that. We drank to that.
There was more food and desserts and beverages. There were adorable cats and tired kids. Before the evening was over, the men were enthusiastically discussing a game of football, while women were discussing work, kids, and shopping. In the end, it was nothing but a fantastic melange of cultures and an evening full of laughter and happiness.
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