Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, Australia

It's the last Thursday in November, which is when they celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US. It is, for many, the best holiday of the year. It started in America, but Japan and Canada and other places have adopted it, too, but on different days.

What makes it special for me is that it is exactly like Christmas without either the religious component nor all the folderol of gifts and all the madness and commerciality that entails. You get your family and friends together, often for the first time since last year or longer, have a big feast of turkey and sweet potatoes and green beans and whatever you'd have at a mid-winter's Christmas feast, and lots of pumpkin pie and pecan pie and coconut cakes or whatever other sweets you'd have, and wine, and watch some darn good football (gridiron).

For those religiously inclined, thanks can be offered up to the gods. For those spiritually or otherwise inclined, you can just reflect and thank your lucky stars or other fortune. It's nonsectarian, nonsecular, with a primary focus on family, friends and communtiy. For those down on their luck, many churches and social agencies provide the feast for them, too. It's a time for peace and goodwill, fellowship and merriment.

For many years now I've thought Australia needs such a day of thanks. What got me thinking that way especially was the stupid way they try to have a "Yule" or Christmas in July. With Christmas coming in summer here, the Christmas feast Australian-style tends towards the seafood buffet with cold-cuts and bar-b-que. Australians of European background miss the tradtional baked Christmas feast, but find it too hot to prepare in the summer heat. So they try to create something like it with the winter Yuletime in July theme.

Actually, the July Yule thing was created and is being pushed by the tourist industry, trying to stoke up some business, so it hasn't really caught on as a dinky di event.
But we do have a Queen's Birthday or other such irrelevant holiday occuring sometime during the winter. How neat would it be if we dropped that and replaced it with a Day of Thanks.
A day of community and family and friends just to celebrate the joy of being. An Australian day without pollies, parades and media circuses of second-hand entertainers. A day when the recent Australians might find it appealing to break bread with, or at least reconcile with, the Original Australians, in the same way that Americans hold to the myth that the Thanksgiving tradition arose from the sharing of the harvest with the Native Americans who helped show them how to survive in the new land.

What I'd propose is we create a proper mid-winter Day of Thanks so we can rekindle those fantastic Christmas-like feasts without all the Christmas trimmings. Then, we'd have our "traditional" Australian Christmas and have our "traditional" European baked mid-winter feast, too.

If the idea appeals to you, please start to spread the word. I've sent the occasional letter to the editor, without any traction. People I've spoken to love the idea, notwithstanding the reflexive "not-another-Yank-invasion" cringe that is so typical here. But it's not my intent to make us more American. It's my intent to make us more Australian. As we've done with most other things, we can take from some of the customs of other places to enhance our own lives and create our own traditions.

If you agree, forward this to everyone on your email list, and ask them to do likewise (you can just copy this link: Maybe the idea will "snowball"!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Stew to you.


Blogger Davo said...

An interesting idea, especially since the 'midwinter' festival on and around 25th December has very little to do with the birth of Jesua of Nazareth (who, it is thought, to have been born during the northern hemisphere spring) .. but more to do with with the worship of the Pagan god Mithras (or Sol Invictus, among others).

Am working on an item about it, and will post in due course.

24 November 2005 at 3:37:00 pm GMT+10  

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