Living In America

November 28, 2011

This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, except that it wasn’t, which was weird. I mean, it was Thanksgiving weekend, for Americans, but even though we’re in America, we’re not, actually, you know, American, so it felt like it would just be wrong, sort of, to roast a turkey and do the whole Thanksgiving thing. We had our own Thanksgiving last month, after all. Two Thanksgivings would just be greedy.

But it wasn’t just that. It was more that it just felt like this holiday wasn’t ours, you know? It’s not that we don’t fully feel like we belong – New York City is probably the most exuberantly inclusive place that I’ve ever lived – or that we somehow culturally out of place. And it’s certainly not that we don’t have much to be thankful for. It’s just that Thanksgiving, the way that it’s done here, is really just so culturally specific. It’s so American. And although we’ve so fully embraced being in America, we’re still very much Canadian.

It’s been easy to forget, most days, that we’re Canadian. Or, rather, that we’re any different than anyone else we might happen to pass on the street. (An exception to the rule of this experience: ‘heritage’ day at Emilia’s school the other week, whereon she was enjoined to share something of her unique culture with the class. She brought maple syrup. I felt exotic on her behalf.) But then American Thanksgiving happened, and it was a reminder that we are, in fact, strangers in a strange land, because it’s a holiday that’s totally new to us, by which I mean, it’s a holiday that involves traditions and rituals that we’ve never participated in. Sure, on Canadian Thanksgiving we have turkey and stuffing and pie and we give thanks and stuff, but it’s different, somehow. And we certainly don’t have Black Friday, which, seriously, America? What is THAT about? (There’s a Best Buy a few blocks from us – you can see it from our window – and we watched on Thursday as people started lining up that morning for a midnight opening. WHY?) So Thursday was a day that just didn’t feel quite ours.

Which is fine. We’ll likely have lots of years here during which we can get used to American Thanksgiving, and to make it our own (maple syrup pecan pie? maple syrup sweet potato casserole? maple syrup soaked brussels sprouts with bacon?) In the meantime, we’ll just roll with it, and be grateful for the rolling.

And the swinging. Always the swinging.

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    ste November 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    My husband and I moved from western Canada to an eastern state just over 5 years ago and the American Thanksgiving still doesn’t feel like ‘ours’. But neither does the Canadian one anymore. We’ve had two kids since we moved here and so I made my first turkey because I want to give them traditions. Thanksgiving here opens the door to the holiday season and I find that that is just as much the importance of it as being thankful.

    t_crafty November 29, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Just do like every other immigrant family and call it “The Day of the Turkey” and use it as an excuse to eat. And yes, Black Friday IS a very depressing phenomena.

    Louise November 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I’m fully American, but grew up just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. I celebrate both Thanksgivings, mostly because American Thanksgiving is always spent at someone else’s house, so Canadian Thanksgiving is my chance to do the holiday the way I want. It works.

    But I do not, and will not ever, participate in Black Friday. Just … ugh.

    Kathleen November 29, 2011 at 11:16 am

    It doesn’t seem like it but, the majority of Americans don’t approve of Black Friday. Growing up my family lived too far to travel and join in on Thanksgiving so our traditional day was to go see a movie! You get the theater mostly to yourself! :)

    Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey November 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I was wondering how this holiday would feel for you. And wonder how it may change over time.

    RAD photo by the way.

    …and YUCK Black Friday.

    Jaelithe November 30, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I’m an American and I totally boycott shopping on Black Friday. I won’t even go out for a gallon of milk. I spent Black Friday the proper way: on the couch, watching Star Wars with my family.

    Of course, I also like maple syrup, William Shatner, and universal health care, so who knows — I may in fact be some sort of secret Canadian.

    Anyway AS an American (until proven otherwise) I really do think you ought to just go for it on American Thanksgiving next year. You don’t even have to cook a turkey. Someone would be glad to invite you over for dinner. Of COURSE it’s your holiday, while you’re here. It’s everyone’s holiday while they’re here. The point of Thanksgiving, after all, is the idealized myth of strangers from a strange land sitting down with the natives for a shared meal. Welcome, all comers, to the table.

    Besides, life is short, and one really ought to take advantage of opportunities to eat pie.

    Allison November 30, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Welcome to the Canadians living in the States club.

    Black Friday is sorta like Boxing Day sales only more frenzied because you have the ” I must get this for Christmas” attitude instead of the ” I didn’t get this for Christmas” attitude you’d find at home.

    As a Canadian who has been in the States 8 years I have fully embraced Thanksgiving but really only because my son was born on Thanksgiving and his birth cemented me here more than my happy marriage to a citizen ever could.

    Not quite fitting in is odd but it’s also unique and exhilerating. Not sure how long you plan on being in the States but after a few years your friends at home start looking at you like you are American ( which as a Canadian you know what that means) and yet here the people that matter are still making a-boot jokes and looking at you weird when you say you need to “phone” someone . Luckily there is the net to connect with people who know who Casey and Finnegan are and if you are homesick there are always Hockey Games to sing O Canada.

    Just wait until your first 4th of July . December 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Well, don’t feel bad…American’s don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving do much anymore…or at least for what it originally stood for. The only reason why we still have Thanksgiving in this country is so we can have Black Friday after it…pretty sad.
    Be proud of your Canadian roots : )

    Mary Thomas December 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Dude Black Friday!!! Ugh!! I’m from California, right above LA and no one I know has ever been psyched about that one. It seems like such a capitalist materialistic propaganda type thing. Like instead of being ordered to a temple to worship a monarch, we must sleep in front of best buy in a tent and fight to the death with pepperspray for a video game. Soooo weird! Please join in on thanksgiving. The background on that one isn’t super warm and cuddly either, but we get the day off, so eat and enjoy your family and feel free to adopt as much or as little as you want. That’s what it means to be American after all. :) welcome! We need all the Canadians we can get! Lol

    Amy December 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I just wanted to pipe in and say that Brussels sprouts with bacon are amazing. :)

    I popped by your house and gave it a little hug a few days ago.

    Transplanted Canuck December 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    What is Black Friday about? The same thing as Boxing Day, pretty much. Turned up a couple of notches depending on where you are, but exactly the same thing basically.

    Victoria Suzanne December 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    My family is French Canadian by heritage, and since you mentioned it: we do eat maple syrup + brown sugar + sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. It is like candy, seriously – I’ve heard some Americans dot their sweet potatoes with marshmallows but maple syrup is so much better. My family was traditionally bootleggers during Prohibition (from Canada to America) and my uncle drizzles the dish with bourbon after it’s cooked. Warning, only for 21+ if you choose to add the bourbon.

    As for Black Friday, it seems like only the truly crazy go anywhere commercial on this day. People have been known to DIE at Walmart on Black Friday trying to regale their families with cheap TVsand video game systems for Christmas. I won’t go to any malls or even driving on Black Friday – very dangerous.

    The Crafty Wify December 16, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I came from east part of the globe so it took me at least a couple years before I fully grasped Thanksgiving celebration. We don’t have such occasion back home, but with my in-laws, it’s always a big family gathering with all the festivities. Gotta admit that I learned to love it. Food wise, we always do potluck style, while turkey is cooked at the host house.

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