Thanksgiving 2019 is right around the corner and today we have Marlo Narch from American Moms Dubai telling us all about this festival. She tells us all about the history of Thanksgiving and how she and her family here celebrate it as an American expat in Dubai.
THANKSGIVING HISTORY: WHAT IS THANKSGIVING?
I never had to think of the history of Thanksgiving until I became an expat in this beautiful city of Dubai. People are so curious to know what this ‘American holiday’ is and what it is about. So every November, a lot of people come to me asking; “What is Thanksgiving?”. When I explain that I have been making pumpkin pie since the time I could stir in the kitchen with my granny and older cousins, people’s eyes light up and they ask, “Is it really just about the food?” To which I have to answer, “honestly, yes! But it’s the food that brings families TOGETHER!”
The tradition of Thanksgiving is intertwined in our culture from the time we are children. As kids in school, we are taught through various art and crafts or coloring sheets the real story behind Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving celebrations started in 1621 as a celebration between the Wampanoag Indians and the Plymouth colonists. This feast was to thank the Wampanoag Indians for helping the colonists learn how to survive and to share the plentiful harvest.
What we learn in high school about the history of Thanksgiving is that it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln addressed the people and declared it as a national holiday.
During the civil war, America was faced with many challenges, and President Lincoln rallied up morale by explaining how we still had so much to live for. Our skies were blue and our fields were fruitful, he proclaimed. He encouraged all citizens to gather the widowed and mourning families and help them to celebrate everything we had to be grateful for. And so, he named the fourth Thursday of every November as Thanksgiving.
Historians have revealed that the original Thanksgiving was not as art and craft worthy as our well-meaning kindergarten teachers put forth. The unsavory conditions that led to the encounters between the First Nations and the colonists continue to be a sensitive topic. However, here we are years later, taking our forefathers’ words to heart and focusing on what is good in the world, gathering with our families to gratefully list off all the blessings in our life. Looking back at it, I am realizing Abraham Lincoln maybe the original pioneer of sorts for the ‘#Blessed’ posts we see on Instagram these days,
HOW IS THANKSGIVING CELEBRATED TODAY?
Still occurring on the fourth Thursday of every November in American homes all over, Thanksgiving is a night that families and friends gather to inaugurate the holiday season by feasting. Back home our families will be bundled up in cozy sweaters and wool socks, and we all will sit around the Thanksgiving table celebrating good grades, promotions, health and the union between family and friends.
During Thanksgiving, even if someone in your family is going through something difficult, you will help them to recognize everything positive that they still have at their tables. It is very common for families to open their homes and invite someone from the community to share the tradition of Thanksgiving, and this gesture is likely to develop into the ‘adoption’ of many ‘family members’ along the way.
WHAT ABOUT THANKSGIVING FOOD?
The food you ask… Going in line with Thanksgiving history, there will be roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, and warm apple cider. All these dishes are usually what American family dinners are famous for. They are designed to keep people warm and comfortable during the fall season. There will also be lots of pies; apple pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie and so many more!
Honestly, Thanksgiving dinners always involve more than a family can eat which is why leftovers are always plentiful. Families will share ideas for their best ideas for leftover food and eat turkey sandwiches for days. Most families will make care packages with the leftover food for those less fortunate in the community.
Eating turkey naturally makes people tired so there is often a lull after Dinner. Luckily, Thanksgiving falls during the great American pastime, football! The enthusiasts of the family will gather in the living room to celebrate their teams’ victories (or provide support over their defeat) after dinner, with full bellies and lots of laughter. Back yard football games often occur with the smell of the fall breeze and the sound of the fallen leaves. By evening it all comes to a close and you help clean up before you head home to crawl into bed, alive with positivity for all things in life that you are blessed by.
How do Americans in Dubai celebrate Thanksgiving?
As an American expat in Dubai, being away from our families during this time, that we are close to, can be difficult. That being said, the spirit of Thanksgiving is alive in the heart of the American people and we make it a point to use this day to do what our forefather asked – to be Thankful for everything we have. There are plenty of Thanksgiving gatherings in Dubai and many Americans have taken this positive twist and use it to forge positive and uplifting connections in the communities that reside all over Dubai.
Being an expat in Dubai can be challenging, especially during the holiday season. You may feel you won’t be able to celebrate festivities, the same way you did back home. But that’s not the case here. If you would like to join in on the true spirit of Thanksgiving in Dubai, all you have to do is gather your favorite people, make a luscious feast, and sit around the table and relish everything you have and be thankful.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Marlo Narch
This piece on the history of Thanksgiving was written by Marlo Narch, a woman who is dedicated to helping American families integrate into expat life in Dubai through a unique group known as American Moms Dubai.
If you are an American family living in Dubai, looking to be a part of this group, you reach out to Marlo and Jenny Najm from their website, American Moms Dubai. They’re also very active on social media. For more insights on how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in Dubai, follow them on Instagram via the handle @americanmomsdubai and get to know their Thanksgiving journey.
That’s completes this article on the history behind Thanksgiving. If you happen to be an American who has recently moved to the UAE, here’s another helpful guest post from an American expat, where she talks about her first experience of Ramadan in Dubai.