Being thankful

This year I learned that Thanksgiving became a formal public holiday under Abraham Lincoln, as a kind of combination harvest festival and national day. Puritans and Indians notwithstanding, I was pleased to see a contemporary interpretation of the intentions laid out by Lincoln as people turned to social media (as well as, presumably, more traditional channels) to highlight all kinds of things about which they were feeling thankful. This in turn reminded me that even though life has been feeling a little routine of late (hence the recent lack of updates) we do indeed have a great deal to be thankful for.

In addition to Thanksgiving, this past few days also marked the beginning of both Hanukkah and Advent, and the holiday season is now well and truly under way. Kerbside Christmas tree vendors have appeared like mushrooms overnight, store windows are bright with festive displays, and scarcely a street tree is safe from an entwinement of twinkly lights.

For me, the best thing about all of this was the 9 lessons and carols service with which we marked Advent Sunday at St Bart’s. This has long been one of my favourite services in the church year, and having only attended it last year it was lovely to be participating in the choir once again. All 3 choirs were on great form (apart from our obligatory dodgy soprano moment), and I was reminded how very lucky we are to have the chance to sing with some truly excellent musicians.

On Thanksgiving day itself we eschewed the Macy’s Parade for a short church service and a light lunch with friends. Heading home across Central Park as the sun dropped behind the skyscrapers it felt particularly wintry, and we were glad to get home to mulled wine and a slice of pumpkin pie before cooking our dinner. This year we opted for a chicken, and I insisted on roast (rather than mashed) potatoes, but otherwise we tried to keep things more traditional with candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing and cranberry jelly from a tin.

Part of our justification behind this somewhat mongrel meal was that we had been invited to a proper Thanksgiving dinner the following night. Hosted by a librarian friend of mine, we weren’t really sure what to expect but it turned out to be a most enjoyable evening, with tasty food in the company of a wonderfully eclectic selection of people.

As this was only our second year of celebrating Thanksgiving, it was really interesting to see what it involved for different people. It’s essentially the same as Christmas back in England – everyone’s family has their own way of doing things, and as an adult you either choose to carry on that tradition or create your own. I decided that it was my kind of holiday – all of the best bits of Christmas (food, drink and good company) without any of the hassle of  buying presents – and, though I say so myself, I bake a great pumpkin pie!

Another thing I’ve been thankful for lately is the Julliard’s free lunchtime concerts. Students perform these in the autumn and spring of each year, of course they are all excellent, and I’m very happy that they take place on a non-library day so I can go along to listen. (The fact that their concert hall is walkably located on the opposite side of Central Park to our apartment is another bonus.) We also thoroughly enjoyed their production of Handel’s Radamisto a week or so ago.

December brings with it the usual selection of delights – festive drinks parties, several carol concerts and one-and-a-bit Messiahs are all vying for space in my diary, not to mention selecting a real tree for our apartment this year, and I’m looking forward to it all. I even went so far as to visit Whole Foods today, on a mission for mincemeat, and as that failed to crush my festive spirit I’m hopeful that nothing will!

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