Traveling Englishmen learn of Thanksgiving

 Tim Worstall:

The scene is somewhere on Interstate 80 in the early 1980s, the day before Thanksgiving. Two young Englishmen are on a road trip to see the country and asked where they are going to spend the holiday. When informed we had no special plans, the waitress insisted that we must be with her family that day — no one should be alone on Thanksgiving for dinner. Of course, being young, male, English, and stupid (but I repeat myself severally), we traveled on. But I still want to express thanks to the woman (who is now probably a Nebraskan grandmother) for that great insight into your country and culture, as well as for her entirely serious and most kind offer to unknown travelers.

Thanksgiving will bring grinning images of politicians (some masked, some perhaps not) demonstrating as they serve up turkey and pie to the homeless. There will also be at those same soup kitchens and community halls, in houses across the nation, hundreds of millions taking part in one of the great human festivals of our time.

Historically, we could say that Thanksgiving celebrates the end of the only distinctively American attempt at socialism. Those Pilgrim Fathers tried to farm in common — the fields, the work, and the crops were all communal. This led to significant hunger, and it was only after the first harvest where this was abandoned, where ownership of work and output was direct, that there was enough to feast with, which is what was done. This has morphed over the centuries into a celebration of the family. Traditionally, the nation travels home to be with loved ones.

But it is a definition of family that includes those unfortunate enough not to have one. The lonely neighbor is included, those out on the streets are catered to. There is, in the Good Book, an admonition that we do not just give our cloak to the naked beggar, we split it so that we can share his cold. Perhaps we should do this more often, not on just the one day, but that you do it at all is a marvel. It is actually difficult, as a foreigner or traveler, in America not to get invited to a family table for Thanksgiving.


It is the most sweet, even glorious, aspect of your society. Please don't ever lose it. To the matriarch near Lincoln, Nebraska: My apologies for not understanding before. Now I do, and from afar, I raise that slice of pumpkin pie to you and 330 million other Americans. That sharing of the cloak is always something to give thanks for.

It is a time of sharing of good food and good company.  I hope all of you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. 


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