03 December 2005

Aaargh Culture Shock!

You know I could get pretty snarky (or superior, or possibly both) that the British Harvest Festival transmuted into Thanksgiving in America.
The shared history is one of thanks to God for the harvest, although whilst in America it involves a sort of pre-Christmas Christmas with roast turkey and all the relatives round and booze and all that, here in the UK it has become a quiet affair.

Hey, we eat the turkey on Christmas day and finish it off on Boxing day and in our house the tradition on the 26th is cold turkey, egg and chips (fries) and the essential Branston pickle. After that we all pray to not even catch sight of a turkey for another two or three months. I think I'd still be off the idea come 25 December, if I'd had to cook or eat any the month before.

Harvest Festival is a religious thing acknowledged by churches and schools and still 'celebrated' in early September at roughly the time that the crops are all in. It lasts about half a day, involves some good hymns and filling a shoebox with tinned goods for the less fortunate. Each school or church will then visit old peoples' homes or the nominated homes of people living on benefits, and hand them a gaily (and usually badly) beribboned shoebox or the like filled with dry goods and, inevitably, the jar of something bizarre and exotic that sat at the back of someone else's cupboard for a year. You know, the sort of stuff that goes to raffle prizes the rest of the year. Pickled turkey. Never mind the actual humiliation of the knock on the door in the first place.

Still, instead of this burgeoning jealousy masquerading as pity (on account of all the work involved, see,) I am beginning to feel genuinely sorry for my American friends.

Shock, horror, disbelief and projected disappointment......no Christmas Crackers on the Christmas day dinner table?

No paper hats that either fall down over the eyes or rip as you try to force them to balance on your head?

No scraps of paper with inane rubbish printed on them, claiming to be a motto or a joke?

No awkward ten minutes as you take turns around the table to read the one you got, out loud, with everybody else obliged to fake jovial laughter like they'd never heard it before or found it witty or funny?

No tantrums amongst the kids when Uncle Fred reads his first and they've got exactly the same one and now its all spoiled?

No subtle positioning for favour, looking to avoid being the one who has to wait, arm extended in hope, for someone to pull the other end of their cracker?

No elbows in gravy as you try to reach the proffered hand?

No arguments or crawling round the carpet trying to find out whose plastic favour went where and whose is which?

No subtle negotiations and blackmail for favour swapsies all through pudding?

No row between Uncle Bertie for refusing to wear his green and orange crepe paper, crown shaped party hat and Aunty Gina who tells him he is always a miserable bloody old fart and he's spoiling it for the kids (who don't notice because they are still under the table hoarding lost favours and trying to hurt each other into giving up the best one?)

Bloody hell guys. Poor you.
You have NO IDEA what you're missing.


Billy said...

You bring a tear to my eye with your description of exactly how my Chrismases used to be before all my relatives gradually died off. Now it's just a corned beef sandwich on my own. Maybe some pickle.

Cheryl said...

Sorry Billy!

Glad to see you (see you comment). Its no more fun for me as mum - hours of cooking, sit down still flushed and flustered, can't eat much of it, have to keep getting up to check pudding, change the courses etc and if its been done right, then the family leaves the table aeons later, still too bloated to do much more than veg in front of the telly and work through all the walnuts, while I start on the washing up.
By the time its all sorted, its time to politely ask if anyone wanted a light tea - you know, the cheese and pickled onions or the trifle. Some bugger always says yes, and then it starts again.
Thats why my boxing day egg and chips means so much - like a servant of old, Boxing Day is my day off. And no visitors!

The grass is always greener, honestly.

ME Strauss said...

Hey, do you mind if I come over for a visit and a feast on Boxing Day? Seriously, just kidding.

Cheryl said...

ME - if you can open the fridge door all by yourself and know how to open wine or put the kettle on, you're welcome.

Badaunt said...

Hey, but the Americans don't have Christmas pudding, either!

No Christmas pudding is no Christmas, as far as I'm concerned. I grew up without Christmas (that stupid sect), so have no REAL Christmas traditions to miss, but once I discovered Christmas pudding I adopted it as a 'tradition' right away. And I miss it, here. (Except when we do the Hilton Xmas dinner thing. They have a wonderfully rich and decadant Christmas pudding, with brandy sauce.)

Gavin Corder said...

Nice blog! And no this is not automated blog spam!

Billy said...


Sorry to be a pest but would you be so kind as to answer a question for me? As one who considers the clothes horse to be at the cutting edge of technology, I'm puzzled and bamboozled by how the order of your 'Blogs I Like' is constantly changing. How does it do that? You don't manually alter it, surely? By what trickery is it effected? I am baffled and bewildered.

Thank you.

Cheryl said...

Hi again Billy
No problem.
The list is managed on Bloglines.com where I keep all my RSS feeds, including a few serious/newsy ones etc that I choose not to list publicly.
I selected to have them shopw with the most recently updated ones on top.
That would work well enough if bloglines didnt seem to lose some of the RSS feeds sometimes.
I might go back to an alphabetical list.
Hope this helps.

Billy said...


Thank you so much. You lost me rather with 'RSS feeds' and suchlike, but basically it's how recently they've been updated. Right. Got it.

Thanks again.


Wulfweard The White said...

Christmas isn't Christmas without;
Turkey with chipolata
Bread sauce
Honeyed Parsnips
Mashed Swede
Roast Potatoes

Christmas Pud (with Brandy)
Cream and Mince Pie

Copius amounts of Red Wine and Port afterwards.
And a wonderful wife to cook it...

Cheryl said...

And I am going to remind my darling husband that I am a LADY.....

...by refusing to dignify that with an answer.


zilla said...

Interesting idea, that British Harvest Festival transmuted into American Thanksgiving. As far as I know, harvest and Thanksgiving are still celebrated separately here, but then again, I haven't really celebrated harvest since 1978 when I was dating a farmer's son. I went to the harvest dance in a strappy dress that showed off my "farmer's tan" -- I spent too many hours riding on the tractor with that boy. I liked him a lot, though, and it's what I had to do to spend any amount of time with him outside of school.

Anyway, the Thanksgiving feast and Christmas dinner are two of my favorites to prepare. Part of it is that the bird (or the beef, for Christmas) have to cook for hours, so the timing of all the sides and the dessert always seems easier to me. The house smells divine for hours, and there's enough left over that I get a real break the next day. The bonus is that since holiday feasts are all about tradition, nobody asks "what's for dinner?" and nobody bickers about the menu. Whether there are four of us, or fourteen for a holiday dinner, makes no difference because four bickering is worse than fourteen behaving themselves.

Please, never feel sorry for this American due to no Christmas Crackers on the holiday table. As it is, we have to give the dog Xanax on the fourth of July, and at the end of Cherry Festival (another even involving bloody fireworks). If the poor boy had to have a sedative for Christmas, he'd sleep through all the fun!

jane said...

Since I don't like Thanksgiving anyway, could I come over to your house to play?
What a blast it sounds like. I especially like with the Uncle reading & then it spoils it for all the kids. hahaha
we grown ups are so cruel! wicked, aren't we? hehehe

jane said...

One more thing, I've seen some of those 'cracker' things at Costplus, what do they do? You have to pull them from each end? I don't believe the ones I saw had any instructions. I'd sure like to buy some if I knew what they were.

Milt Bogs said...

Cold turkey on the 26th sounds pretty brutal. A little medication helps to gentle rehab along.

Cheryl said...

I got that from a US schools page, that the first thanksgiving was when the settlers had survived and finally got a crop in for winter.
As to feeling sorry for you - joke!
On the other hand - I had no idea you had so many festivals - we just have Christmas, Easter and Bonfire Noght (although Halloween is creeping in).

Milt - swap the meds for a padded cell?

Cheryl said...

Jane - they don't do much.

You pull one end each and they go bang. Then you have to wear the silly hat, laugh at the joke and adore the sewing kit / plastic frog.
Gift, motto, hat - and it should say on the back of the box.

Some people say whoever gets the long end gets the contents, but then you always get someone who doesnt get a gift at all, that way. Some say if its the cracker from beside your plate then its yours.