Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First Thanksgiving In New Zealand

A Maori friend said to me today, what is Thanksgiving? What are you thanking? So I told her the story of the first Thanksgiving in New England. And I told her that we New Englanders really thought of Thanksgiving as our holiday. (I was going to say 'Kiwi friend' because she is from New Zealand, but that would not have been exactly accurate as I understand things. And 'New Zealander' is a bit cumbersome.)

We've had Thanksgiving in many places: As an 8-year old, I lived in Louisville KY, and an Army Air Corps officer who lived with us while she and my father were stationed at Ft Knox thought it fitting to treat us to Thanksgiving dinner at a fancy restaurant. I had almost never been to a restaurant at that point, and rarely such a fancy one. And we had it to ourselves. We thought it odd to eat Thanksgiving any place but home. It was over the Ohio River into Indiana, so I guess we never really had Thanksgiving in Louisville. The Korean non-war was over and we went back to Connecticut the following summer.

Many years our cousins came from West Hartford for Thanksgiving. It was about an hour and a half away and we saw them only a couple of times a year. Odd that we didn't see them more often! This same cousin's typical commute in Houston is that long.

One year my parents went away to an English teachers' convention and my mother did all she could to find a good place for us to go for Thanksgiving dinner. I went to my friend Helen's house. That was when I was about 14.

Later when Juan and I were married, we spent our first Thanksgiving apart: he was in grad school in CA, I was finishing college in MA. The year before, his parents found out during his last Thanksgiving at home that we were dating.

I don't remember the Thanksgiving after I joined Juan in CA but the following year a whole group of grad students plus our baby Van drove to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for the long weekend. We had Thanksgiving dinner before leaving for a few friends.

Later, when we were back in MA, we went to our friends the Fergusons' for Thanksgiving several years in a row. And we had them the Sunday before Thanksgiving. it was Kay Ferguson's birthday on November 22 so that's what we were celebrating. (She will be 93 this year on that date. I wish her a happy birthday and Happy Thanksgiving.)

In 1981 we moved to Arizona and had big Thanksgiving dinners for a crowd. And later when we had our ninos living with us, who had moved as a family of 6 from Venezuela, we had a big table-ful of just us. And one year we met friends at Zion National Park and had Thanksgiving there, with a precooked turkey and I don't recall what-else: something manageable in a camping trailer.

We're having our 48th Thanksgiving together this week with probably no celebration at all. When we were in China for Thanksgiving 2005, the expats from Beijing had us over. It was their Thanksgiving too. But here we have just fellow missionary couples. They are gathering in Wellington for a meal, but we are 2 hours away and have to come and go in one day, with lots of regular traffic on the Wellington end, and we've decided not to do it.

It's still Thanksgiving. We've had many in full celebration, so one where we end up going out for Indian curry will not hurt us.

My parents were married on Thanksgiving day, which was November 25 that year (1937). Did I mention Thanksgiving was special to our family.

While we have too many to mention, and each one of them special, we will kinda miss having family for Thanksgiving this year, and turkey and oyster stuffing and squash and sweet potato and gravy and white potato and creamed onions and rutabagas and pie after pie after pie. My daughters-in-law have their own traditions so that list of foods has morphed and new traditions have evolved. 

And they will continue to do that. I know that. But for me it is The Holiday of the year, and this is how I am celebrating it this year, by reminiscing. 

May you have a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.


  1. Nice story! Have a unique Thanksgiving in New Zealand!! Love you guys!

  2. For what it's worth, our lack of Thanksgiving tradition is more Peter than me!

  3. Thanksgiving in Zion National Park...

    Peg, you could write a Thanksgiving Book... all about your wonderful experiences! Wow!