Transferring tradition: Thanksgiving in the UK

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

As Thanksgiving approaches, VoL sat down with Linnea Mullenbach to chat over a seasonal cup of hot cocoa. Initially coming from a small town in the U.S.A –  Potomac, Maryland – and having lived in the UK for 13 years, Linnea is one of the few people who has consistently kept the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving alive after leaving her home country.

Since Thanksgiving is prominently celebrated in the USA, VoL was curious to know the significance behind this holiday.

Linnea said: “The essential purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate the first real harvest. Around 1960 a group of pilgrims from Eastern Europe arrived near Plymouth rock in the USA, and they were allowed to live on Native American land. Therefore people celebrate the first year of their successful harvest”.

This resembles a new beginning and the Earth’s bounty.

Typically, Americans come together with their family and share a big meal that consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pie,  and other popular American foods. The purpose of this is also to be thankful for what you have and reflect on your life. The underlying essence of ‘giving thanks’ is what makes thanksgiving such a deep-rooted tradition.

After living in the UK for such a lengthy amount of time, what made Thanksgiving so special for Linnea in particular? 

Linnea told of how, unlike the stereotype, she has always celebrated Thanksgiving not only with her family but also with friends.

“As my parents lived in Ethiopia for a long time, we used to blend my immediate family and my extended family and our Ethiopian family friends for Thanksgiving dinner at my house. This made Thanksgiving a several course affair. There were welcome drinks, canopies followed by a whole sit down dinner. The tradition of sitting down and enjoying food with the important people in my life is something I enjoy implementing in London as well.”

Since 2007, Linnea has been in London. She has not had Thanksgiving with her family for the past 15 years, so she has renamed the holiday ‘friends giving’.

Photograph by Unsplash

Linnea also shared that every Thanksgiving she looks forward to decorating her house with pieces brought with her from America, to make her feel more festive. She also loves cooking either vegan pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup for her friends.

“Pumpkin really reminds me of Autumn and the harvest. Being away from home, the flavour reminds me of family and the true feeling of Thanksgiving”. 

Elaborating even more, Linnea explained that the most significant difference between celebrating Thanksgiving in the UK compared to the USA was the lack of celebrating as a whole community.

“As Thanksgiving is a super American holiday, not many people in the UK celebrate is which is different from the USA, where everyone is celebrating it. It’s a physical four-day holiday in the U.S., so everyone is coming together to relax and enjoy. The feeling of going over to other people’s houses and watching football is not something you have here.” 

As London is a multicultural hub, we must embrace festivals from all over the world. And while this year may be different because of the pandemic, virtual options such as ‘Zoom Giving’ can still make us feel closer to our loved ones. 

To everybody celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!

Words: Akanksha Goel | Subbing: Sam Tabahriti


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