Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving thanks

I have celebrated Thanksgiving each year since I moved to Norway, and each year I look forward to celebrating the holiday. I never really get tired of preparing food and inviting people to share it with us, although I must admit that at the end of Thanksgiving Day I’m pretty exhausted. This year was no exception. I normally invite family and/or friends to join us during the weekend after Thanksgiving, as we are at work on Thanksgiving Day. This year was different; I made Thanksgiving dinner today and invited family.

I am always nervous each year that something will go wrong; that feeling that I will suddenly become a completely inept hostess rears its head each year. But except for the first year I was here, things have mostly never gone wrong. That year was the year that the antique electric oven that my husband inherited from his parents didn’t tolerate being opened too often to baste the turkey (the temperature dropped dramatically each time the door was opened). Suffice it to say that it took about nine hours before the turkey was done. Our guests were patient though and they hung around, back in the days when people did hang around until 1 or 2 am (when we were younger and losing a good night’s sleep didn’t destroy the following five days in terms of sleep and lack of energy). We bought a new stove shortly after that. In the twenty-two years I’ve been here, the turkey has turned out dry on two occasions. This year the corn bread didn’t rise as high as it should have and I don’t know why, I couldn’t find cranberries in the supermarkets or in the small neighborhood markets to make sauce (I used tyttebær instead and that’s always a good substitute), and I almost couldn’t find a turkey. It seems as though eating turkey has caught on here at Christmastime, which means that turkeys will be available in mid-December. But as I explained to one supermarket manager—I’m American--I need a turkey now! But I finally did find one that was the right size after visits to a number of different supermarkets. It turned out to be a very good turkey, not dry at all.

Thanksgiving, for all its informality and joviality, is really a formal holiday, in the sense of giving thanks on a national scale. I can remember attending mass when we were children and singing ‘America the Beautiful’. The first stanza is particularly beautiful and memorable:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

It’s good to be reminded that we ought to be grateful for all that is good in our lives. And maybe sometimes even for what may not be good in our lives at present—unhappiness, unfairness, losses, hurts. Because without the sadness that life deals out at times, we might not be able to appreciate the happiness when it appears. We need the contrast. 

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