Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving in Britain

Filed again under "random notes from Britain," some things I find amusing about being an American in the UK this Thanksgiving holiday:

1. English muffins here are just called "muffins."

2. Bagels and (real) blueberry muffins are sold in supermarkets with a little American flag icon on the packaging.

3. Yesterday I went to a Thanksgiving lunch put on by some British people. To re-create a bit of American spirit, they had decorated the room with red, white, and blue balloons and little American flags in addition to the normal pumpkins and paper turkeys. It was funny (and weirdly inappropriate) to see such patriotic decor on a holiday that's in many ways uniquely American (though Canada has one too) and forms part of the American civil religion but isn't really "about" America the way, say, the 4th of July is.

18 Comments:

Blogger gordon said...

Thanks for the perspective on Thanksgiving, et. al., from GB. I wrote yesterday about the crazy entry into our frenzied and off-centered month of December here in the US. It's a major ritual time for our civil religion. Maybe the perspective of the Brits isn't far from the mark -- red, white and blue. Living in Kansas, I find so much of the radical conservative rhetoric so depressing. It would almost be comical if it were not so serious. Your comment on the marketing of "What's the Matter With Kansas" as "What's the Matter With America" in Great Britain is disturbing. Those of us, and there are many, here even in Kansas, who seek more progressive ways of living and believing, are waking up. Tony Blair seems to be taking a strong hit from the swing away from "Bush at all costs" and the polls in the US indicate much of the same sentiment. Thanks for your blog and your truly interesting and thoughtful observations.

11/25/2005 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Very interesting thoughts about liminality & Thanksgiving as the entry into the holiday season. Without Thanksgiving, Britain has no defined beginning of the holiday season, so the Christmas decorations go up in stores as early as October. People always say that the Christmas season seems to start earlier every year. Actually, the UK does have a holiday on November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, but it doesn't serve as an entry into the holiday season. Perhaps it's hard to be festive about the execution of a traitor who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament...

Red, white, and blue: what I find interesting is the way holidays and national identity interact. When I lived in the US, Thanksgiving never mentioned America - as I said in the post, it's not "about" America - and yet it's a kind of national affirmation of our shared culture. But since it's an implicit affirmation, there's no need for patriotic accoutrements - we have Independence Day for that. Which is why I thought yesterday's British take on Thanksgiving with its explicit display of American-ness - shorn of its natural context - was a bit of a misunderstanding, a strange misinterpretation of what Thanksgiving means to Americans (or at least, to this American).

Glad you like the blog, hope to hear from you in the future!

11/25/2005 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous graefix said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Andrew! I lived in England for about three years, so I can relate. I found the "American Muffins" and chocolate chip cookies in stars-and-stripes packaging rather endearing. I never saw any English muffins, though - except at McDonald's.

-g

11/27/2005 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks, graefix, and Happy Thanksgiving (belatedly) to you as well! I find the stars and stripes packaging endearing too. And I agree, I don't see the English muffins much either - the first time I noticed them might have been Marks & Spencer a few days ago.

11/27/2005 01:00:00 PM  
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