A Very British Thanksgiving

By Charles Sutton on October 3, 2012

A humble note to the great British nation:

It has become cliche to say that the UK and the US enjoy a special relationship. Despite the obvious differences in language, size of automobiles, average waist circumference, availability of socialized medicine, and so on, it is undeniable that the two cultures are more similar than they are different. But these two sister countries are still divided by a cultural chasm, one that prevents us from truly having common ground, a chasm deeper than politics, football, or religion. This chasm is nothing less than the holiday of Thanksgiving.

Although you will no doubt be familiar with the holiday from your exposure to American books, films, and television, it is impossible to truly understand the spirit of Thanksgiving without having experienced it. The time has come for a new social movement to celebrate the goals of peace, cultural understanding, and consuming a seven kilogram turkey in one sitting. The time has come for the British people to finally adopt Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving is an exceedingly simple holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Here’s what you do: On Thursday, you prepare a large roast and serve it to your family. On Friday, you skive off work. That’s it. First you eat a big roast, then you skive off work. I ask you, can you imagine a holiday more intrinsically suited to British culture? Frankly, I’m disappointed that you people didn’t think of it first.

Now, as you become more experienced at celebrating Thanksgiving, there are many ways in which you can make the celebration more elaborate, if you prefer a more authentically American experience. For example, for Thanksgiving dinner, it is common to invite members of one’s extended family, some of whom travel long distances to attend. This tradition will no doubt yield the same hilarious results in the UK as it does in the US.

Or you might like to try your hand at the American custom of “Black Friday”. On the Friday after Thanksgiving—the skive day, remember—some people like to spend the day shopping, for their Christmas presents, ostensibly. The shops accommodate this by opening their doors early in the morning and advertising a range of one-day-only special offers, for which people—yes! Americans!—queue as early as 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Now, as much as you may welcome the opportunity of queueing, I do not recommend that you attempt to follow this tradition literally in the UK, as at 5am Friday on a British high street, you are likely to find yourself lonely. And, most probably, wet. Instead, I recommend that you wake up at a more reasonable hour, like noon, and do your shopping then.

Whichever of these more advanced Thanksgiving traditions you choose to adopt, it is important to emphasize that whilst all of these traditions can make be a fun way to add spice to the holiday, none of them are essential to the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Anyone to whom these enhanced traditions appear onerous should simply content themselves with the roast, the long lie in, and the knowledge that they are doing their part to increase cultural understanding across the Atlantic.

This year, why not start the festive season off right, with a very British Thanksgiving. Remember: Thursday, you make a roast. Friday, you skive. That’s all there is to it.

In fact, why don’t you try it out this Thursday? You know, for practice.


1 Thanksgiving would more properly be termed a North American holiday, as it is celebrated in Canada as well. However, I understand from my reading of Wikipedia that in Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on a Monday rather than a Thursday. This makes no sense at all. For this reason I have made the decision to ignore the existence of Canadian Thanksgiving for the purposes of this essay.