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Giving Thanks December 3, 2009

Posted by americanex in Uncategorized.
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In America, December means one thing…Christmas. But before I tell you about some of the Christmas traditions in America, I will tell you about the holiday in November that makes many Americans very full and very tired – Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in America is a very big holiday. Almost all the businesses are closed and children like to get up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is a tradition that has been around for more than 60 years. It is called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade because Macy’s sponsors the event. Macy’s is a department store that sells clothes, shoes, jewelry and all kinds of things for your home.

The parade marches down 5th Avenue in New York City, a very busy street with lots of stores. People line up along the street to see the bands and floats, dancers, clowns, singers and large balloons of all kinds of cartoon  characters. Most importantly of all, children wait anxiously to see Santa Claus, who is in his sled at the end of the parade. He takes a short break from making toys at his North Pole toy shop to visit and wave to all the people. Thousands of people may watch the parade in New York City, but millions also see it on television.

Later, football games are on most of the television stations. And while dads, sons, husbands and boyfriends sit in front of the TV, moms, daughters and girls of all ages are in the kitchen preparing the feast.

Some families cook a duck or goose for Thanksgiving, but it is traditional to have a turkey. The turkey is stuffed with bread mixed with seasonings and chopped vegetables. Every family makes their stuffing just a little different. Other traditional foods include sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

You may wonder why these foods are traditional, in fact, you may be wondering why Americans pick a special day to “give thanks.” Well, it goes all the way back to when the first people came to the new world – the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims came to America from Great Britain, where they were forbidden to practice their religion.  They knew they would be free in America.   

About 120 Pilgrims and their children sailed many months on the ocean on a big ship called the Mayflower. They were happy to reach the freedom but they were not prepared for the harshness of the New World. The winters were cold winter with a lot of snow. The Pilgrims soon ran out of food and almost half of them died that first winter.

But something happened which gave hope to the Pilrims….they met the American Indians. The Indians welcomed the Pilgrims and showed them how to plant corn, potatoes and other crops. They showed them how  to hunt geese, ducks and turkeys and how to build shelters that would withstand the winter’s cold and wind.

The next autumn, the Pilgrims harvested their crops and food was plentiful. They were thankful for the Indians’ help  and that they had survived. They prepared a huge feast and invited their Indian friends to join them. There were so many people, they had to eat on wooden tables outside. The Indians brought gifts of freshly killed deer for the feast and together they gave thanks to God for their food and health and safety.

That is a little bit of information about the first Thanksgiving. If you would like to learn more, visit the Foreign Literature Department at the Oblast Library for Children, where we have many books about holiday traditions, including Thanksgiving.

Americans today celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.  We cook turkeys, enjoy the company of family and friends and give thanks for all our blessing.

I thought I would be a little sad this year because I am in Ukraine and not with my family in America. But I got a wonderful surprise. Several other Peace Corps Volunteers and I gathered together two days after Thanksgiving Day and cooked many traditional dishes and enjoyed each other’s company. We talked about our own family traditions and the recipes for our favorite holiday food. And we gave thanks that we were here in this country, that we were together on this special day and that we get to work with so many wonderful people in Ukraine. We had much to be thankful for.

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