I have an idea. You’re not going to like it, at first, but wait until I’m finished before you start writing me an angry tweet. OK? OK. Here it goes:
We only have Christmas every four years.
Think how nice it would be, how much more you’d look forward to it, and how much more thoughtful the gifts would be. You’d put the tree up on December 1st and it would always be a real one, and you’d be thankful for the smell every day. An Olympics of Christmas: maybe even a host country that agrees to convert itself into Santa’s grotto for the entire year. And this is where I lose you: every other year, we’d just have Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving would be the Euros to Christmas’s World Cup.
For years, we’ve watched Thanksgiving with a cynical curiosity as it’s filtered through from the US. We have learned, from watching Friends, that there is a “Macy’s Parade” and “yams” and the men watch “the game”. We’re aware of the pilgrims, the Mayflower and the smallpox that almost wiped out the American natives. And then, at the end of the episode usually, we learn the point of Thanksgiving: being thankful. Social media was full of it yesterday: everyone, from Gwen Stefani to Julianne Moore, was taking Thanksgiving as an opportunity to tell the masses how thankful they were. They posted pictures of their children, they used the #soblessed hashtag and they were boldly alive in their own quintessentially American gratitude.
Thanksgiving is so far in the other cultural direction that it’s flipping punk rock
It’s very non-European, the idea of openly counting your blessings. Ours is a culture of modesty, of reserve, of expecting the worst and being suspicious of the best. Thousands of years of war, persecution, Catholicism and Bovril will do that to a people. Can you imagine us doing it? Standing up in front of our friends and family and telling them how thankful we are: for our health, for our family, for a full table, for functional draught excluders, for beautiful, crisp autumn weather, for a vigorous and exciting career? It’s unthinkable. Thanksgiving is so far in the other cultural direction that it’s flipping punk rock.
And yet, I think we need it. We’re so in love with irony and self-deprecation that we’re in danger of disappearing up our own arses with it. My Twitter feed is full of people eloquently attacking everything in their life: their terrible landlords, their uncertain Tupperware lids, their very ability to get dressed in the morning. We sneer at the idea of being #soblessed – an idea we dismiss as being “very American”. We are terrified of being seen as boastful or self-congratulatory, so we downplay our good fortune and our part in it constantly. We tell our friends that we got a promotion at work, and then rush to explain ourselves with, “Yeah, but only because five people left last month and there was no one left to pick up the slack.”
While I’m keen to not lose what makes us "us" – for, let’s not forget, it’s irony and self-deprecation that have gifted us everything, from Shakespeare to Peep Show – I do think it’s something we could adopt for one day a year. There’s a very real power in standing up in front of those you love best, and declaring what makes you lucky. It’s why we cry at weddings, even at the weddings of people we don’t really know. There always comes a moment, during the speeches, where the enormity of the ceremony dawns on you, where you realise that the power of the wedding doesn’t come from the dress or the party favours – it’s the public acknowledgment of your conviction, love and your part in your own destiny.
So, think about it, guys. We’ve already adopted Black Friday, Halloween and pumpkin spiced lattes. What’s one more American tradition in the annual pot?