I'll be honest: I'm an Australian based in England, and the concept of Thanksgiving is completely, hilariously foreign to me. Like Cheez-Whiz, Fluffernutter, the Real Housewives of Whatever, or Blake Shelton, it evidently makes perfect sense to Americans, but looks a bit bizarre out of its national context. Given that my only real sources of information about this clearly beloved national holiday are films like Pieces of April (hey, remember when Katie Holmes was mostly known for being an actress?) and Addams Family Values, where Christina Ricci burns a WASP holiday camp to the ground, I'm probably highly misinformed.
Thanksgiving's not like Halloween or Christmas, which had their origins in Europe and were transported over to America for you lot to make your own. Those are substantially easier to parse, because we all share our own interpretations, even if, frankly, the British Christmas knocks your Yule pretensions into a cocked hat. (I'm sorry. It's a Dickensian thing. You were never going to win.) Thanksgiving is a purely American-grown extravaganza, and that means that a few things were always going to be lost in translation.
So, as you sit down to your 3 p.m. "dinner," know that this is what it looks like to the rest of the world when you get together on the fourth Thursday of November (yes, I had to look that up). Here are 11 things Thanksgiving seems to be about to those of us who know little about it.
Impression #1: It's just an excuse to eat your weight in food
From here, it looks like this is a holiday devoted to stuffing your faces with delicious things. Turkey, chestnut stuffing, potatoes, something called a yam? This is a concept I can get behind entirely.
Impression #2: People are willing to journey huge distances/undergo serious humiliation to partake of said food
That's the basis of most Thanksgiving-based films: Somebody needs to get home for Thanksgiving dinner, because if they don't, they'll miss out on the true meaning of family, and also all the tasty, tasty treats. Hence a madcap journey across the country learning about life and friendship.
Impression #3: You concoct some truly horrible combinations of food
Sweet potato with marshmallow? It has "sweet" right there in the name, guys. Surely adding a layer of gelatinous sugary gloop is unnecessary? No? OK, you lost me. (I also found a recipe entitled "Thanksgiving cheese balls." Please tell me this isn't actually a thing.)
Impression #4: There's a parade of giant balloons for no apparent reason
I have no idea how anybody managed to convince an entire city to grind to a halt to watch a bunch of huge balloons wander the streets, but it sure makes for hilarious backdrops for ludicrous action films like Tower Heist.
Impression #5: It usually involves fighting
I've seen The Ice Storm. Don't tell me it's not actually an excuse to air all your grievances to your family and throw turkey legs at one another.
Impression #6: There's a strange obsession with a (frankly unpalatable) bird
Guys, turkey is terrible. You know this. I know this. I don't care if it's native to America; it's dry, tasteless, and takes ages to cook properly. You have to cover it in brine, stuff it till its ribs pop out, and slather it in cranberry sauce for the end product to actually be edible. I know the pioneers faced some challenges, but this just seems unnecessary. (You have ducks native to the U.S. too. Just sayin'.)
Impression #7: It's an excuse to use up the pumpkins from Halloween
This is my own private theory. How else do you explain the sudden proliferation of pumpkin pies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin tarts, and pumpkin whatever-else-you-can-finds? I AM ON TO YOU.
Impression #8: It somehow involves the cult of pumpkin spice?
Come November, the internet turns into some worshipful shrine to a crack-like additive that makes coffee taste like pumpkin. It seems a bit like Scientology in spice form. Thanksgiving must be behind it.
Impression #9: it makes Americans overseas weepy
Come Thanksgiving time, Americans studying and working overseas will struggle to capture the magic of Thanksgiving in their new homes, and largely fail because nobody wants to touch marshmallow-covered sweet potato with a ten foot pole. They'll get nostalgic for their family gathering, get together for a pot luck, and endeavor to explain the magic of the holiday to any bemused non-Americans who show up.
Impression #10: People dress up as pilgrims and turkeys?
impression #11: this is compulsory
If it isn't, all my illusions are shattered and I'm never coming to a Thanksgiving dinner, ever.