Jaspa – For most people (though not all, of course), travelling is about seeing new places and the fun activities they get to do when they’re there. My tribe’s traditional Journey is more about experiencing new cultures and customs, and learning from them. I’m very lucky because I get to travel a lot these days, but whenever possible I still try to stay true to the ideas of the Journey.
With Rich and Sue having friends in Connecticut, it’s a place I’ve been several times over the last few years. Last weekend’s visit was a little different, however, since I got to experience a few traditions that were totally new to me.
Living where I do, I’ve seen several Canadian Thanksgivings, but last Thursday I got my first taste (literally) of the American version. Sue had to work that morning, so we decided to split the 10 hour drive to Connecticut over two days. Arriving mid afternoon at the U.S. border at Buffalo, we were surprised to find the crossing point virtually deserted. Instead of having to wait in the usual long lines of traffic, we were through customs and on our way in under a minute. Now that’s something I could get used to!
After stopping briefly in the deserted town of Batavia, we arrived at the equally abandoned town of Canandaigua, in the Finger Lakes region. It was really strange to see both settlements with almost no people on the streets people. Thanksgiving in America, makes Christmas Day look like a regular work day. It makes you wonder whether this is what upstate New York would look like in the aftermath of some terrible nuclear disaster.
We soon discovered that quite a number of Canandaigua’s residents were to be found at our hotel, tucking into an enormous Thanksgiving buffet. The non-Americans among you should try and imagine a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, but with extra trimmings on the trimmings. I’ve never seen so much food in one place. Even Bisckits met his match! We all went for a long walk afterwards to try and burn off some of the calories.
On Saturday morning (having arrived in Connecticut the previous evening) we were up early to embark upon another tradition I’d never encountered before: the choosing of the Christmas tree. We descended upon a local tree nursery with the Pritchards and the Johnsons, and began the surprisingly lengthy processes of assessing the thousands of trees there: too short, too tall, too saggy, too prickly, not round enough, too round, too uneven…you get the idea. Trees that were ‘perfect’ five minutes earlier were discarded in favour of trees that were even more ‘perfect’. Eventually, both families had a tree and we returned home to decorate them and celebrate another tradition that Thanksgiving has in common with Christmas: leftovers!
On Sunday we took part in another uniquely American ritual: the football (that’s American football for British readers) tailgate. This was actually my second experience of this particular custom, but I was nonetheless amazed by it.
In most parts of the World, everything required for attending a sporting event can be easily worn (jerseys, scarves, hats, jackets etc.) or carried (flags, banners, and perhaps an umbrella or a camera). Hardcore tailgaters, on the other hand, require whole bus and/or trailer loads of equipment. The tailgate I attended, for example, had a box-trailer full of dedicated gear. This included several tables, a dozen or so chairs, two flagpoles and flags, two awnings, two propane BBQs, games, a larger-than-life inflatable football player, an equally large inflatable Santa, a gasoline generator, plus… and this is the most incredible part… a satellite dish, an HD cable box and a flat screen TV! There was also enough food to keep a small army on the march. And bear in mind, all this only gets used about eight times a year, and was one of dozens of such gatherings outside the stadium that day. Who needs the hassle of going in to see the game, with all that lot to keep you entertained in the parking lot?
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