My family and I have been fortunate to share two Thanksgivings in North America. The first was a Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October. This was our first time in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island and we were blessed to share it with my husband’s Uncle and Auntie and extended family. We were very thankful indeed as we sat around a huge table loaded with turkey and all the trimmings, and especially the candied yams which my husband’s Auntie had prepared. My son, who doesn’t like pumpkins discovered pumpkin pie. He had to have two helpings to test out whether or not he ‘liked’ it.
The second Thanksgiving we spent with my husband’s cousin two years later in Phoenix, Arizona. There we discovered the weird tradition (weird to us Kiwis) of deep-frying a whole turkey. We also discovered the dubious joy of Black Friday sales, and Oh Lord—I never want to do Walmart at 4.30am on a Black Friday again! But spending time with our Kiwi cousins who live in the States gave us a unique glimpse into what the buzz about Thanksgiving is all about. Family. And being thankful for what we have.
New Zealand doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or have any public holiday that’s an equivalent, and I think it’s a shame. And this is why I think New Zealand misses out. We have a public holiday that celebrates the important signing of a treaty between Maori and European back in 1840, but that day is often fraught with tension. Then there’s the Queen’s birthday, which quite frankly no one gives a hoot about, it’s just a day off work. Anzac Day is special, remembering the fallen soldiers in both New Zealand and Australia, but it’s an acknowledgement, not a celebration. And then there’s Guy Fawkes, which isn’t an official holiday, but every year people go nuts with fireworks and probably don’t even remember that Guy Fawkes was actually a man—a not very nice man—who planned to blow up the English parliament in 1605. Charming fellow.
I would love New Zealand to adopt a similar holiday to Thanksgiving. I don’t know what it would be called or when it would be held, but I think we as a nation need to stop once a year. Just stop and go be with our families for no other reason than we’re thankful to have them. Even those of us without families can find something to be thankful for. Clean air, food in our bellies, indoor plumbing. Something. Especially after the earthquake that rocked New Zealand last week, now is a good time to remind ourselves of all we do have.
Wishing all my American friends and readers a wonderful family time this week. I’d love to hear about some of your special family traditions around Thanksgiving in the comments.