The house is looking festive, filled with a sense of anticipation. There’s a basket of apples scenting my kitchen, pumpkins and vegetables cover the counters, and all my big platters and serving bowls are sitting out ready to be filled with traditional Thanksgiving fare.
The kids will be arriving this afternoon, ready to gather wood for the bon fire, prepare the shed for the influx of guests, set the huge table (for 22 this year!), and stoke up the wood stove ready for Sunday.
As American-born parents, Michael and I wanted to give our kids a taste of U.S. tradition. Apart from Christmas (which Australians celebrate in any case) the biggest holiday for us was Thanksgiving and before our children were even born we were keeping the tradition alive in our new home.
It didn’t feel right celebrating Thanksgiving in Australia on the same day they do it in the States. I had a hard enough time adjusting to Christmas without snow so I wanted to keep to the appropriate season.
As luck would have it, South Australia has a long weekend in early winter – the Queen’s Birthday, in the middle of June. So that has become our family’s traditional Thanksgiving holiday.
When we first moved onto our farm and the kids were young, we actually combined this day with Halloween. Back then I had a massive vegetable garden and grew mountains of pumpkins every year. On our Thanksgiving day, after the traditional turkey dinner, a hay ride around the property and dessert and coffee, the kids would all gather round the picnic table and carve some Jack O Lanterns. (When I say ‘kids’ it was most of the grown-ups as well, as everyone wanted to be in on the fun.)
By the time they’d finished, dusk was falling and it was time to light the bon fire. Michael’s pyromaniac friends would get it going, and when the flames had died to the point we could get within fifty feet of it, everyone would pull up a chair and settle in with a port, beer or glass of cider.
That’s when we’d light the Jack O Lanterns, arranging them around on the ground, up in trees, lighting the pathway down to the house. We’d sit in mellow appreciation, digesting our meal, with those laughing, ghoulish, grinning faces shining back at us.
These days I don’t have the vegetable garden (one of the downsides of a bad back) but the rest of the day is still the same: food, drink and plenty of laughs.
We love sharing this tradition with our Australian friends and like to think they have fond memories of the many times we've celebrated it together.
What traditions has your family invented or transplanted to a different country?