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Holidays in America
An English rose in Georgia
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One of the big differences living here after moving across the pond from England is the American holidays.
The first confusion is that in England a holiday means a vacation. So talking about “the holidays” usually means the main summer vacation. Then there are all the different national celebrations.
Obviously with Thanksgiving approaching, this holiday is very much on our minds. I think this is a lovely celebration with its focus on family, feasting and togetherness, which celebrates the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Since emigrating to Richmond Hill last year, I discovered it only became an official national holiday in 1941, and I have become fascinated by Thanksgiving trivia. Did you know that Minnesota is the top turkey producing state in America and that the largest pumpkin pie ever baked was made in Ohio in 2005 and weighed more than 2,000 pounds? No? Me neither.
In the U.K., turkey is the big Christmas dish, so I always fix it the American way at Thanksgiving and the British way at Christmas in our home. Then for some reason, my husband does not want to face turkey again for a while.
I also really appreciate the time that Thanksgiving allows us to stop to give thanks and share time with family and friends before the pre-Christmas madness begins – and it begins with a vengeance on the Friday after Thanksgiving. (Wow, you Americans really know how to shop, but that is for another column!)
Another difference in England, maybe because we miss out on the Thanksgiving holiday, is that we also celebrate the day after Christmas with Boxing Day. This originated from a tradition amongst the nobility, who after making their servants work on Christmas Day, graciously gave their servants a holiday on the day after Christmas and presented them with a “box” (a gift) to take home to their families.
Then it is New Year’s as you call it (the British tend to call it New Year’s Eve). I was amused when one of my stepson’s friends earnestly asked me if we watch the ball drop at “New Year’s” in England. My British sense of humor was lost on him when I said “Oh yes, we wait up until 5 a.m. as we are 5 hours ahead of you in London.” I relented and explained about Big Ben chiming at midnight –our equivalent to the Times Square ball drop.
Onto summer and the all-important Independence Day: A Southern gentleman once described this holiday as a celebration of the American right to stay home and barbecue. One of my funniest experiences was when a sweet girl working in a bank asked me last summer if we celebrate July Fourth in England.
“Oh yes,” I joked. “We always celebrate losing our American colonies through the war of independence in 1776 with a day of national mourning.” She looked at me blankly. I think that again my British sense of humor had not translated very well. One of her colleagues rescued us and explained.
Anyway, I am happily planning my Thanksgiving menu, having attended a cooking class to perfect American recipes. We don’t have sweet potatoes in England, and I'm looking forward to welcoming friends and family into our home later this month.
God Bless America!

Francis relocated from London to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be reached at or via

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