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An Australian Thanksgiving

Do you have American friends here in Aus who might be feeling a little out of place this holiday season? And not just because of the whole opposite seasons thing. This week, our friends in northern parts of the globe are celebrating Thanksgiving. But it’s not really the done thing here, right? In order to understand Thanksgiving a little better (in particular, how many turkeys should be consumed), Laura spoke to one of her favourite American friends.

As a fan of the beloved television series Glimore Girls (in fact I’m watching it right now as I write this), I am so invested in the idea of Thanksgiving. I’m also invested in the idea that it will one day snow here in sunny Newcastle, so you can see that I’m slightly delusional and probably a little bit confused. 

Which is why I turned to my (not so token) American Friend – Taylor.  Taylor arrived in Australia five years ago with nothing but a backpack and a dream of life Down Under. Cut to today, and just like the song, she now calls Australia home. 

So, after Taylor invited me to Thanksgiving dinner this week, ever the opportunist and committed house guest (strong Virgo energy) I decided to dive a little deeper and find out how we Aussies can get in on the celebrations, or at least support our American friends in the process.

What the heck is Thanksgiving and why is it a big deal?

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that happens each year on the fourth Thursday of November. Traditionally, it’s meant to represent a harvest celebration that happened back in the 1600s between the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag people. The story goes that they came together to celebrate, fast and feast over a period of three days. As a kid you’re taught how everyone peacefully put aside all differences and broke bread and prayed – I’m not sure how accurate that is now that we look at history a lot more critically – but the tradition of feasting in November has stuck nevertheless.

Today Thanksgiving is seen as a time to come together with your friends and family, reflect on the year and think about what you’re thankful for – and also eat a lot of turkey. Oh and…fun fact! I grew up an hour from where the first Thanksgiving happened. I went on too many school excursions there to count.

How many turkeys does one have to cook because I’ve seen Gilmore Girls and…

Hmm depends who you ask. My mom always did two – she’d bake one in the oven and we’d deep fry the other one in a big deep fryer in the backyard (so American, I know).

Just interjecting here to audibly gasp..

And these weren’t tiny turkeys – we are talking 15kg minimum! But since moving to Australia I’ve stuck to one turkey and that usually feeds a group of 10 – 15 friends with plenty for leftovers. To be honest, the best part of Thanksgiving is the turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwiches you eat for the following week.

Do you really go around the table and give thanks?

Maybe in some families you’d go one by one and say what you’re grateful for – but in my family it usually just came up when someone said grace (and this is literally the only time each year my family would say grace). It’s a pretty common exercise when you’re in primary school though. I can’t tell you how many hand turkey drawings with “I give thanks for my dog and my game boy colour” written on it my mom would have collected from us growing up.

Do you have any expat friends you hang out with for Thanksgiving every year?

Yes! I have two American friends living here and we get together every year for ‘Friendsgiving’, which is a popular thing to do back in America – you know, having Thanksgiving with your friends! Especially when you’re in college and you can’t get home for the holidays. No matter how you choose to celebrate, Thanksgiving is very much still a thing in America!

As one of your many Australian friends, how can fellow Aussies support their American friends?

Come along to a Thanksgiving dinner! And have a crack at making a traditional dish or put an Aussie twist on something you think would accompany turkey well! This year some of my Australian friends are going to try to make green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole, but there will still be some Aussie classics like a potato bake on the table. My Thanksgiving is always a mix of both cultures. For example, I don’t really love pumpkin pie, so I usually end up with a pavlova for dessert at the Thanksgiving I host!

Is it awkward that Thanksgiving is so close to Christmas or do you just eat all the time?

Literally you just have to prepare yourself and your stretchy pants for a month of eating. I think it’s nice because it makes it a “holiday season” spanning a few weeks rather than just Christmas Eve and Day. It’s tradition in our family to put up our tree on Thanksgiving, so it’s really a mark of the beginning of the holiday season for me!

Words: Laura Kebby | Photography: Zoe Lonergan

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