No good reason not to join in Thanksgiving

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 09:43 26/11/2012
Thanksgiving
SPREADING GOODWILL: Food, wine and friends. There’s plenty to be grateful for

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Alastair Paulin

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My four-year campaign to get my readers, all three of you, to embrace the American holiday of Thanksgiving has been a miserable failure.

Along with corn flour tortillas and aggressively eccentric freedom of expression, Thanksgiving was one of the handful of things I wanted to bring back from America when I returned to New Zealand.

It is a holiday with no downside: none of the culture wars over whether Christmas and Easter have become too secular, no pressure to buy, no cards to be sent. Its appeal is simplicity: can you get behind feasting, friends and gratitude?

On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans pause for a day and gather with friends and family to eat roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie while somewhere in the house a TV is tuned to football. The only gift anyone will bring will be yet another dessert pie or a bottle of wine. And in exchange for the bounty, the only obligation of the day is to spend some time reflecting on what you have to be grateful for, usually starting with the bounty itself.

Gratitude is a powerful attitude. If you look at your life with an eye to all you have to be grateful for, the glass is always more than half full. It is cheap and effective therapy and sharing it publicly is a type of amplifier, increasing the quantity circulating in our community.

Or so goes the theory that drives me to write a Thanksgiving-related column around this time every year. Last year, after my annual listing of some Motropolis objects of gratitude, I asked for submissions of what you are grateful for, thinking it would make for a inspiring follow-up column. I got exactly one response.

I get it, we have our own traditions and so why would we want to import one from the United States, that dubious empire in decline that has foisted so much junk upon us already? Believe me, I'm just as opposed to those unwelcome advance agents of bloated consumer culture as you are, from extended presidential-style political campaigns to triple cheeseburgers, from Transformers 3 to LMFAO.

I hate the invading creep of Halloween, St Patrick's Day, Administrative Professionals Day and all those other spurious celebrations that were either invented and/or co-opted by the PR and advertising industries and I don't expect Thanksgiving Day to be formally adopted.

I can also happily live without the physical centrepiece of Thanksgiving, the turkey.

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Dry and tasteless, the roasted bird is really just the excuse for the side platters. Whether reinterpreted by uber-carnivores as the Turducken or by vegetarians as the Tofurkey, it is more a symbol than a dish.

On Thursday night we eschewed the turkey (easy to do when they cost $80) and went with what I consider the king of meats, a pork roast, while our friends brought around a roasted chicken, because every king deserves a queen.

Between courses, pausing to make sure we have enough room left for the pumpkin pie, we'll have acknowledged some of what we have to be grateful for.

I'll start.

Let's give thanks for the approach of summer, for the smell of fresh-cut grass, for local vine-ripened tomatoes in a sandwich, for the happy buzz in multiple languages of tourists clogging High St and filling the tills, for concerts on the lawn at Neudorf.

Let's give thanks for friends who share their early jersey bennes, who laugh at our jokes even when they have heard them before, who keep an eye on our kids at the river, who kick our arses on the tennis court.

Let's give thanks for living under the sunniest skies in the country, for having three national parks on our doorsteps, for having clean rivers and bays to swim in, for the good health that lets us enjoy it all.

Let's give thanks to the bike mechanics and physiotherapists who patch the battered machines and the counsellors and pastors who patch battered hearts.

Let's give thanks to the heroes who inspire us and make our hearts swell with pride, from Jonelle Richards to Jade Brown, from Nathan Fa'avae to Emily Jensen.

Let's give thanks for cops standing in the middle of the road in the middle of a winter's night to stop drunk drivers, for paramedics, nurses and doctors who intervene before it is too late, for firefighters and rescue workers for tumbling out of bed when disaster strikes, for the workers who scrape snow off the Takaka Hill road every winter.

This is just a partial list; feel free to create your own. If you want to share, send it to alastairp@nelsonmail.co.nz.

If not, give thanks that I subject you to my list only once a year.

- Nelson

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