Yesterday, I went to my first Thanksgiving dinner in the US. It was crowded with relatives, groaning with food, noisy with children, animated by football on TV and in the yard, lively with table talk, and pretty darn joyful.
On the table sat a plate (as above). The internal oval itemized some of the things Americans are thankful for: love, family, peace, friends, hope, health, wisdom, comfort, home, happiness, success, bounty, and freedom. A platter piled high, as it were, with thanks.
Canadian thanksgivings are less inclusive. In 1957, Parliament declared Thanksgiving “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” No platter called for here. By and large, Canadians are not thankful for “everything. They are thankful for harvest, defined literally or somewhat more broadly. Family, health, home and bounty might come into it. Love, peace, friends, hope, wisdom, comfort, happiness, success, and freedom probably not.
I think the plate would be out of place on a Canadian table. I would bet that, in many Canadian homes, it would draw comment, even derisive comment, if not at table, then in the car on the way home. “Did you see that plate? She is really overdoing it.
So whats the diff? I think its that Americans tempt fate more often. They risk more, as individuals and as collectivities. They generate more “outcomes. In any given year, there is more “in play. Happiness is, as they say, pursued. Freedom exercised. There is less grey middle. Less “same old, same old. Love, peace and freedom are, in a dynamic world, hard won both in the long term and the day to day. So at the American Thanksgiving, more thanks are called for.
Much of Canada has locked itself into a kind of stasis. Things change under protest. To drag out that old psychological stand by, its a matter of the “locus of control. I think more Americans than Canadians see this vested in the individual and the moment. Canadians are accustomed to having the world act on them. They respond as they must. Thanksgiving day is not a time to celebrate outcomes, so much as survivals. You can hear them thinking at the dinner table, ‘the world missed again.
This could very well be the turkey talking. Or it may be simple gratitude. But freedom, thats something to be thankful for.