What is Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday in both USA and Canada, with the US celebration falling on the fourth Thursday in November and the Canadian one on the second Monday in November.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims who were giving thanks for the harvest. The previous year the harvest had failed and many of them had died. The Native Americans had taught them how to grow corn, squash and beans, and how to catch fish. A typical Thanksgiving meal includes butternut squash, corn and beans alongside Turkey and potatoes.

The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated on 26th November 1789. It was proclaimed by George Washington as a time for being thankful for what you have and for counting life’s blessings.

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated with parades and a family meal, and many Americans consider it a more important holiday than Christmas.

Christmas in New York

Rockefeller treeAmerica being so vast, Christmas Day will vary a little state by state, especially when you think about the traditions of the southern states and the heat of California. So my contribution to this ‘Christmas around the world series’ is concentrating on NYC. Apart from the fact that New Yorkers see themselves as a separate entity to America (in a good way), a bit like London seems to be separating itself from the rest of the UK (in a bad way).

In any case, that’s where I’ve spent more Christmas days abroad and a couple of Thanksgiving days too. Which brings me onto my first point; in my 25+ years’ experience of visiting New York, Thanksgiving is decidedly more of a family orientated day off than Christmas. As it’s only a month before, if people have to choose just one flight home, they are more likely to choose Thanksgiving. Dec 25th is the only public holiday, as there is no Boxing Day in America and the only other one is New Year’s Day so people are more likely to stay put and get then and spend NYE with their friends too.

So what I have got up to on Christmas Day in New York? For the first time, I treated myself to a stay in Waldorf Astoria. The iconic hotel, as cosy as it can be for such a huge old building, is mainly full of, well-to-do, young American families who no doubt want to get away from domestic chores for a few days.

Rockefeller ice rinkOn Christmas morning, I skip out of my room (tiny – the cheapest, but still, it’s the Waldorf!!) and the maid says ‘good morning’ as I wait for the lift. I bump into a few people and everyone politely greets me, as I do them. It’s not until I go outside onto Park Avenue that a passing soldier smiles with a ‘Merry Christmas mam.’ So that is the first time ‘Christmas’ is uttered. Had it been Thanksgiving, everyone from the door staff, coffee shop servers and drug store cashiers would have said ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ Instead of ‘good morning’.

It’s my first time away from a family Christmas and I even pre-book my festive lunch in their restaurant (upwards of $100 for a roast turkey buffet even all them years ago) which is full. I’m seated within eaves-dropping range of a Florida doctor and his young family. I told all my friends that Jude Law was on the table opposite, sitting with a large group but that could have been a doppelganger of course. (I wouldn’t really know exactly what he looks like quite frankly but they chose to believe me).

On other visits, I have seen snow although that tends to come when the winter proper comes in January/February so Christmas is relatively mild. Although, unseasonably, my very first visit to New York for Thanksgiving, it snowed – for the first time in a gazillion years if I recall rightly. It did mean I couldn’t be asked to go to Macy’s Parade with The New Kids on the Block, yes, that’s how long ago it was. But I made up for that by going to the Parade some years later on a sunny blue sky, day.

Central parkIn America, the block buster films are released on December 25th so I have seen those once or twice but one of the best Christmas evenings ever was seeing Jersey Boys on Broadway. I’d tried to secure tickets the year before and this time, I’m so determined I ask an expert to assist. The ticket is bought, the gold knitted dress is packed – trust me, it looks much better than it sounds and comes out every year – and then I have a little disaster with the boots I was going to wear.

I’d been out for traditional long walk in Central Park after brunch and came back for a refresh before going out much later for a turkey lunch in a different local diner. When I went to pop my boots back on, the zip broke! The disaster being that I’d only bought one pair as I had fully intended to shop for a couple of new pairs after Christmas. These were the years I was building up my business and didn’t have time to do these things all through the year so not taking spares forced me to go and shop!

This being New York, which has a heavy non-Christmas celebrating Jewish population, especially where I base myself uptown, I knew there’d be shops open, just not the big chains. I put my jeans on over my boots for now, and go shopping on Christmas day. There are four shops that sell shoes within 10 minute from me. Most are selling trainers and casual shoes but one has clothes and a good selection of boots. I buy not one but two pairs of boots. The night is saved!

Jersey Boys still the best musical performance I have ever seen outside of regular bands; worth every cent for a special Christmas day.

City centre dweller Rickie Josen has been writing for 5 years, spending 6 months in New York to (mostly) attend writing school and get addicted to working out of indie coffee shops. So that’s where you’ll find her most days but being a big music fan, she’ll have her headphones firmly on! Rickie travels frequently and having written a book on her great loves, music and travel, the hunt is on to find that one agent that will say ‘yes’ or at least ‘yes, you have some potential. Maybe.’ If on the rare occasion you can’t spot Rickie in a coffee shop, you can find her readily on Twitter @RickieWrites or via her blog.

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in France, How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany, How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece