People are sometimes confused by my accent. “Are you English?” they ask. Not with a name like mine! No indeed. I am a Yank through and through. I was brought up in Pennsylvania and went to college in South Carolina, but the English accent thing is because I overdosed on C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot and on a youthful dream, a touch of luck, a dash of chutzpah and a large dose of divine Providence I went to study at Oxford and live in England. For twenty-five years I lived in that beautiful, damp land. For twenty-five years I did not celebrate the American feast of Thanksgiving.
However, during my exile I did eat turkey at Christmas with the English. I cracked the Christmas cracker. I wore the paper crown. I ate soft brussels sprouts, drank the sweet sherry with Christmas cake. I saw them set the Christmas pudding aflame and imagined I was in a story by Dickens. The next day I celebrated Boxing Day without ever discovering why it was called that. I went to the pantomime, watched the Queen’s Speech and fell asleep in front of the fire with a full stomach, a cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake by my side. I learned to thoroughly enjoy the English Christmas. There was turkey and stuffing and family and feasting and fun. But it wasn’t Thanksgiving.
Then five years ago, through one of God’s practical jokes, I came back to South Carolina with my English wife and English-sounding kids to be a Catholic priest. Along with learning to live in the suburbs and shop at the mall, and spend hours in the car, and have far too much of far too many good things, we also learned to celebrate Thanksgiving. I, of course, still knew all the rituals, and was able to share them with my family, and now back in my homeland I’m delighted to eat turkey twice within weeks, for we now celebrate both American Thanksgiving and English Christmas.