how is it thanksgiving already? when i was in university thanksgiving was often the first weekend people would finally go home since the start of the semester; it seemed so far away. there were so many papers to write and assignments to submit before thanksgiving. and now, labour day and thanksgiving feel like they’re 2 weeks apart.

thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. i love the smells and the colours…and the clothes! where i grew up and where i live now, it’s not cold enough that you have to hide under a massive coat. and there’s nothing on the ground that would soil your awesome shoes. but it’s also not so hot that you’re sweating through your great shirt or avoiding tights because your skin will melt off. and the extra autumn layer helps to conceal any bulgy parts that summer clothes expose.

i didn’t always love thanksgiving though. thanksgiving was often confusing when i was growing up. i imagine thanksgiving might be confusing to many others who came here from different countries. my parents are from hong kong. they didn’t know about cooking turkey and sweet potatoes and they had no idea why anyone would put cranberries on their meat. thanksgiving is often represented as a non-ethnic holiday. call up most thanksgiving imagery and it’s not exactly the most culturally diverse illustration. when i was younger i’d hear my friends talking about thanksgiving and its attendant customs; there was nothing in those details i could relate to. for a young person, that can be so alienating, and in me, it exacerbated an insecurity about being different that was already there, and growing: we looked different, my parents spoke differently, and there was no thanksgiving where they came from.

which, now, i find ironic because thanksgiving in canada only started after settlers from overseas decided to make this land their home. in other words, thanksgiving is actually an immigrant tradition! thanksgiving began with those who were not from these parts. they didn’t begin their lives here. they came here to build better ones. and thus, thanksgiving was introduced to celebrate their successful journeys, give thanks for their safe arrival, and collectively hope for the promising future for which they had braved the trip. it’s been hundreds and hundreds of years but that is still an immigrant’s dream, only these days, they don’t just come from england, they come from all around the world.

to be thankful then is universal. but does the common depiction of thanksgiving reflect its universal spirit? at our family’s thanksgiving gatherings, we eventually started serving soya sauce turkey. instead of sweet potatoes there was rice; instead of coleslaw it was stir-fried gai lan with shiitake mushrooms; we ate with chopsticks and a soup spoon. if i took a picture of the spread and labelled it “thanksgiving dinner” and had it published in a magazine, i wonder if i would get shouted down, like “that doesn’t look like thanksgiving where’s the gravy and how come there are no decorative pinecones and burnt leaves lining the serving plates???”

good question.

what does thanksgiving look like?