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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving - for real

As it is the day before Thanksgiving I thought I should share what my impressions of Thanksgiving have been throughout the years.

Growing up in Hong Kong and attending British schools, it was not customary to have a day off for Thanksgiving - a purely American celebration (and, just a bit anti-British if you think of why they had a Thanksgiving in the first place). However, though my parents were religious about school attendance - and I mean religious, (you had to have a provable condition to miss school), they saw the importance of religiously celebrating Thanksgiving.

I am grateful today for their prioritizing this 'holiday' (read: holy day) because it has profoundly impacted my life.

Because one forms views and ideas of what it must be to be an American in the 'home'land when one grows up outside of said homeland, I formed my ideals around the ways we celebrated as a family in Hong Kong. I wrongly assumed we were just doing what all Americans do for Thanksgiving. It was much to my shock, and dismay, that I discovered that most American homes do not have a clue what to do on Thanksgiving. So, let me enlighten you, in case you didn't have the privilege of experiencing a true Crutchfield Thanksgiving.

My Mom allowed us the day off school - which was cause for great celebration until we realized we were not off for relaxation, but for WORK. And work we did - from morning 'til late afternoon - peeling apples, chopping celery, washing pots and pans, setting tables, making place cards, going over our memorization/piano pieces one last time...etc. I don't think we were that excited about the work - okay, we definitely weren't, and my Mom endured all sorts of complaining from us (one of the cardinal, seven-deadly-sins in my opinion!)

Once everything was in place, and maybe a little before, the guests began to arrive. The guests were intentionally from all over the world - Australian, Canadian, British, Chinese, Filipino, Dutch - probably a whole slew of others I can't recall just now. One by one they'd come and marvel at this new experience of what a traditional American Thanksgiving was all about.

We sat them at the table and bowed for prayer and tucked into the scrumptious meal. If you know my Mom, I am not kidding you - it was SCRUMPTIOUS. She is more or less (okay, more) a gourmet cook. We never had just one pie, most usually we had 3 - apple, pecan and pumpkin. And cool whip? Noooo - fresh whipped cream.

After the meal had been thoroughly enjoyed we all gathered in the living room. Now was the part of making it a real thanksgiving. First the person who had previously been assigned, opened the gathering with a few words of introduction and proceeded to tell/read their own re-telling of the first Thanksgiving. Children listened with rapt attention; adults marveled at the harsh experience of the first settlers to the land we call the U.S.A. Often there was quiet reflection of how our lives are so easy compared to theirs - and yet we so often complain.

After the story-telling, we would go around one by one and share (short or long) whatever we were thankful for in the previous year. In between sharing times, Mom would prompt one us kids to get up to perform our piece. This would be a bit like a recital - music pieces, poetry, Scripture or a song to sing. This would be our part to play.

And that, my dear friends, is what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving.

It was so sad for me to discover the true American way is just to eat a lot and kick-back and watch sports on T.V. How lame!

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