As an atheist who happily celebrates the Christian festivals of Christmas, Easter and Pancake Day, it seems no less appropriate as a Scotsman to celebrate that most quintessentially American of holidays: Thanksgiving. Those of you raised on a diet of Friends on British TV might be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving falls today, the fourth Thursday in November, and not at some point in mid-March when we would finally get to see the new episodes on Channel 4.
It wasn't always this way, however, as I learned on Wikipedia this morning. In 1939, FDR moved Thanksgiving from the last to the penultimate Thursday in November, in order that shops would begin selling Christmas goods one week earlier, and hence stimulate the moribund Great Depression economy. Two years later, it was moved to the fourth Thursday in a compromise between those in favour of and opposed to the change. I have to admire FDR's chutzpah in this move, and I reckon that, if I ever become Prime Minister, I would be all in favour of moving Christmas should I have forgotten to pick up presents for my wife and kids.
Apparently, Thanksgiving gives you licence to be a bit more schmaltzy than usual. This is a bonus, since the only other opportunity I get to do this is at New Year. And Graduation. And the end of term. And, frankly, countless other times, when, if you take the time to see through the sardonic air, you'll find that I'm just one big pot of sentimentality. There I go again….
So I'm supposed to give thanks, and there's no shortage of things for which I should be grateful. Especially if you consider that I haven't ever recognised this holiday, and consequently have a whole lifetime's worth of gratitude; but particularly in the past year, which has been one of my best on record. A large part of that has been academic, and I suppose I should be thankful for receiving my degree from Glasgow (though it was hardly a gift), as well as thankful to EPSRC for enabling me to move Edinburgh and make my first steps out into the real world.
It is, however, (and not just because they are far more likely to be reading this than the head of a research council) to my friends that I want to give the most thanks. To my old friends in Glasgow, without whom it would have been impossible to endure the trials of a final year at university. And to my new friends in Edinburgh, who have helped make these last three months some of the best times in my life, and reinforced my conviction that moving here was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
So how will I be marking this occasion, over and above this rather gushy blog post? There will be a traditional, home-cooked, meal for one of the food of my forefathers—chilli con carne—followed by a short parade to Teviot where I will taste some wood-finished whiskies in good company. And if things carry on into the night as they are apt to do, I thoroughly expect to be having a Black Friday.