23 November, 2011

A letter to Americans outside America

Dear Americans,

I have to admit that I feel ambivalant about your Thanksgiving. 

Giving thanks is important, I acknowledge that and I practise it every day. And I appreciate that your holiday gives us a 3 1/2 day weekend at CAJ — a welcome break from school and work.
But it is your celebration. Not mine. It is full of things that you grew up knowing, food and fellowship that you will always associate with good times.

Where I grew up, this time of year was associated with the increasing heat of the days and nights. With exams, tests and assignment and the imminent end of the school year. With end of year parties. With the anticipation of a long summer break. The cricket season was heating up and the school year winding down. 

But never did I associate the end of November with all things orange and brown. Never did I think about turkey or pumpkin pie. Never had I even wondered what holiday Americans celebrated at this time of year, before I came to Japan. We Australians have no equivalent to your Thanksgiving. Our history is very different to yours in so many ways.

I feel uneasy when you say things like how delighted you are to share American holidays with the rest of the world. I'm part of the 'rest of the world' and I cannot honestly say I share your delight. I feel strangely uneasy at this epidemic of "thankfulness". I'm glad you feel thankful. But at the same time you make me feel like an outsider, more than I do at any other time of the year. I don't share your traditions. I don't even feel a great desire to start to share them. 

I don't ask that you stop. I just ask that you remember that there are people in your midst who don't share your traditions.

Just wanted to let you know.

Your Aussie friend,


Footprints Australia said...

Well said Wendy. Good on ya mate!!!!!

Shan in Japan said...

Thanks for the reminder!

us5 said...

thank you, Wendy, for the gentle reminder.

i guess that, as an American, Thanksgiving is one of the most uncluttered, un-materialistic, positive things in our culture, so i can understand why others might want to share it.

i never have - for me Thanksgiving is most meaningful when shared with fellow-Americans who also love the traditions we love.

but please forgive those of us who have imposed it on you, and know that the 'epidemic of thankfulness' is a much-needed reminder to our spiritually needy nation, though as Christians, hopefully it lasts throughout the year!

Wendy said...

us5, thank you for your comment. My post was indeed meant as a gentle reminder. I'm glad you saw it as such.

Yes, both our spiritually needy nations need thankful hearted people. I'm just not sure that we need to bombard others with all the things we are thankful of. Using our Facebook statuses and our blogs to do it. To me, it is more suitable to be thankful in my heart and express my thankfulness to God rather than to blurt it out to everyone who happens by...but that is just my opinion.

Just to say my piece of thankfulness, though, I'm thankful for all the sensitive American friends that I have! And I'm hoping you all had a great Thanksgiving.

us5 said...

thanks for the grace, Wendy. and you're definitely entitled to your opinion. ;)

i totally agree that it's much more important that i actually BE thankful to God than just listing what i'm thankful for!

OliveTree said...

Thanks for your point of view Wendy, it is a good reminder. I also have many foreign friends--South African, Swedish, Brazilian, Mexican and British who delight in sharing Thanksgiving. Once I had British friends who asked could they please come to our Thanksgiving...

But it is good to remember that others may feel imposed on by our effusiveness.

One thing to realize is that part of the plethora of the lists of Thanksgivings this year may be due to the book 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It is having a major influence on many American women to cultivate thankfulness.