Celebrating a North American Tradition, Untraditionally

Written by: Billie Clark

Typically, with my family, Thanksgiving is a fairly low-key event.  We usually go to my Grandma’s house on the Sunday to have a turkey dinner with most of the family.  Monday we will spend some time together or go to a movie or work around the house.  It is generally relaxed and very family-oriented.  Last year, while in Wales, it was a little different for me.

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the UK.  It had pretty come and gone without my having realised it, simply because there is very little pomp surrounding it even when I’m at home.  (My other excuse is that classes had really only started in October, so by the time Thanksgiving came I was finally getting the hang of it all and had little time to think about Canadian holidays.)

It wasn’t until November that it finally struck me that I had missed Thanksgiving—I had made a bunch of American friends during my first couple weeks in Swansea, and they were planning a trip to the Carvery for a Thanksgiving dinner.  I guess I should explain a bit more.  The Carvery (Toby’s Carvery) is a chain of restaurants, where you are able to eat a selection of fresh carved roast meats, and veggies; it really is very much like the typical Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner spread.  A few of us had gone to the Carvery for dinner once, and breakfast another time, so the Americans knew it would be an excellent way to get the Thanksgiving feeling. There was also a Thanksgiving dinner being hosted by the International Students office, on the day of American Thanksgiving.

This is when I learned some really interesting cultural facts: 1. While the people in Wales, and the UK in general, don’t have a Thanksgiving, they are somewhat interested in them (mostly because of American film and television); 2. Not many people realise that Canadians a) celebrate Thanksgiving, or b) that Canadian Thanksgiving is at a different time than American Thanksgiving; and 3. Thanksgiving, on the whole, is not the most important holiday in my year (although I did miss my family a little tiny bit).

I was so oblivious to Thanksgiving last year that I actually spent the Friday before Thanksgiving (October 11, 2014) exploring the two museums in downtown Swansea and looking for Doctor Who shoot locations (there were a bunch and we saw none of them).  On the Sunday (Thanksgiving proper) I did nothing Thanksgiving related at all!

That was how I celebrated Thanksgiving while studying abroad at Swansea University, in Wales.  Wait until you hear about my (not at all white) Christmas!

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