It’s almost Thanksgiving as I write and we have no plans. Whatsoever. Most American families will have the menus planned down to the cranberry sauce, but we’re still wondering what we’re going to do. Some years we get together with other lonely souls who have nowhere else to go, but we don’t lose any sleep over things either way. Similarly, with Independence Day we are often not even in the country, so have never gone to join friends at suburban parades, to wave flags and experience the all-American cookout.
Being English, you’d think that perhaps I would make sure that these American-born kids of mine would be steeped in my home country’s culture. I’m ashamed to say that apart from a sporadic offering of Yorshire puddings with meals or crackers at Christmas, we don’t do much English stuff either. Bonfire night came and went and not a whiff of a sparkler was there in our expat household (I still find it weird that you have to stay up so late on July 4th to see the fireworks. Being used to them occurring on November 5th, when it’s dark at about 4pm, it was never a late night for children.)Recently I’ve started to think that perhaps my children have lost out a little when it comes to traditions. Is it just mine, or do all expat kids or children of mixed culture marriages miss out? Fortunately for them, the children of blogger Calif Lorna (http://califlorna.com) have been well immersed in both British and American culture. Lorna says:
“I think because we lived in the UK for most of our married life, I made sure we always celebrated the American holidays to make sure both cultures were acknowledged.
For 4th of July we would invite friends for a huge party, it was the big event in the village for the year. We’d decorate the garden with American flags and ask guests to come dressed in red, white or blue. We barbecued burgers and I’d always make a huge brownie cake with the American flag in strawberries and blueberries (very Martha Stewart!) We’d then light fireworks to patriotic music – it was very over the top and the first year I’m not sure what all our friends made of it but in years to follow they really got into the spirit of it. One friend even made clothes for her children from Stars and Stripes material!
For Thanksgiving we would let the boys have a day off school and would do the large turkey dinner with our family. We’d try to watch the Macy’s parade on television or the internet but always struggled to find it. But, now we miss Guy Fawkes and sparklers on the patio don’t quite cut it.”
Kat (http://3bedroombungalow.blogspot.com) is an American blogger whose husband is currently serving in the military and stationed in England. For Thanksgiving, which obviously isn’t a big deal in the UK, she says she:
"…always keeps the kids home on Thanksgiving. We have always ate Thanksgiving "dinner" at around 2-3 in the afternoon. Now, instead of having family around the house we have our close friends over or go to another American friend's house. I still make green bean casserole because dangit it is tradition. At Thanksgiving we also try to watch American football but it usually comes on really late on ESPN America (thank goodness we have the full Sky Sports package)."
And thank goodness for Skype, which is becoming increasingly important in keeping families connected at these special times. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. My little family has developed its own traditions, and it’s these that the children will remember and probably pass on to their own families.
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.