Okay, so TOMORROW is American Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to my fellow non-Americans for your greetings to the Americans, to the married Americans' votes of support for the Single Americans and to the Single Americans who signed up for the annual Singles Thanksgiving Survival Game. Make sure you get your tallies to me either just before you go to bed tomorrow night or first thing on Friday morning, so I can post them before I go to bed on Friday night. (I'm on Greenwich Mean Time.) If you play the Orthogals' Single Clichés Bingo, too, take a photo of your card and send it in. Don't forget: the more your relations comment on your single state, the greater your chance of winning. But no cheating by wearing a grey tracksuit to dinner, etc. If a remark is addressed to all the Singles at the table, every participating Single gets a point.
If you manage to write down the more amusing of the comments word-for-word (keep pen, paper and bingo board hidden in the nearest bathroom), that would be awesome, too.
Thoughts of American Thanksgiving and its centrality in American life, even in these days of Obamacare and support for mass illegal immigration and the "Knock Out Game" and all kinds of hair-raising things that are none of my Canadian business, lead to thoughts about the importance of shared cultural stuff in marriage.
For some people, national or ethnic traditions are not a core value. As I live in the UK, I do not celebrate any Canadian holidays except Hallowe'en, which I recognize by carving a pumpkin and putting it in the window. I used to have a Hallowe'en party (with Canadian Thanksgiving food), but this proved impractical and led to squabbles with my Scottish husband, who could not understand my attachment to the most suspect of my national holidays when I gave up Dominion Day without turning a hair. The annual squabble ended, though, last year when we were in Poland, where the priests all think Hallowe'en is satanic and the people have much nicer, totally Catholic All Saints celebrations. So now I just carve a pumpkin (or squash) because if I didn't I would DIE.
My ethnic Christmas traditions are just as important as Mr. Jack O'Lantern, and every year I rise from my couch and bake the Christmas cake and wrap it in brandy-soaked cheesecloth because what kind of woman would I be if I didn't, eh? Three weeks later I get off the couch again and start baking Christmas cookies according to my mother's recipes and then on Christmas Eve itself, I am on the phone to my mother to review the Traditional Christmas Morning Bun situation. Then on Christmas Day I make exactly the same dinner my mother does and afterwards collapse, half-dead, into bed.
B.A., whose ideal Christmas would involve Midnight Mass and then a romantic getaway in the snowy Highland countryside, watches all this activity in trepidation and keeps his head down because although I saw reason about Hallowe'en, I will never, ever see reason about Christmas baking, which must be done or I am a failure as a woman and Christmas will be ruined.
Fortunately it has not escaped his notice that English Christmas conquered Scotland a long time ago, and the shops are full of Christmas cake, and the mammies or grannies of his fellow Brits make Christmas cake or Christmas pudding, and bake endless cookies, and cook ginormous Christmas dinners. Christmas food obsession is very British, so my attitude, if rather noisy-colonial, is also British and therefore normal.
Meanwhile, my mother's mother, her mother, her mother, and her mother, stretching back through the centuries, were all Scots of the east coast (very different from the west coast), and B.A.'s mother, her mother, her mother, and so on, were also all Scots of the east coast. Which seems to mean that I automatically make all the right remarks to all the east coast Scottish platitudes and understand that it is sinful to pay £80 for a dress in the High Street when I can get one for £8 in the charity shop. I'm told people on the west coast think it a matter of pride to spend a lot of money on something, but this is surely just anti-Glasgow propaganda.
What is the point of all this navel-gazing? Well, I am pondering the fact that even though I married a fellow across the ocean, we seem to be culturally compatible because although we don't share the same NATIONAL culture, we share the same ethnic culture. If B.A. gets all very Scottish patriarch, I recall stories of my grandfather behaving like that. Naturally it makes me cranky to think that I have married my grandfather (or, somtimes, his father), but at least it feels familiar and [east coast Scottish platitude].
The poor old Canadian parish priest we bullied savagely during our pre-marriage interviews warned us that we might experience some cultural clashes, and he turned out to be right. Fourth generation Canadians of British descent are as American as we are British, a sort of hybrid, like our spelling. However, despite our arguments about self-promotion (e.g. sneaky British self-deprecation versus honest American boasting), B.A. and I understand each other pretty well. Of course it's more important that we share the same core values of Christ and His Church, but on the other hand, when it comes to the little things of daily life, the social interactions, the shopping, the cup of tea for the visitor, the farewell to the bus driver, the shared unspoken assumptions mean a lot, too.