Thursday, 26 November 2015


“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” - William Arthur Ward

The USA and Australia are on very friendly terms and the two countries have a special relationship as far as international affairs go. I guess this is understandable as we share many common things: A British colonial origin, a pioneering past, a chequered history of indigenous peoples relations, a country built on migrant stock (many of common ancestry – English, Irish, Scottish, and other Europeans, Chinese), gold rushes, eventual independence from colonial rule, a democratic system of government, similar values and culture, etc, etc. However, don’t get me wrong, I am the first to acknowledge that there are striking differences also.

The influence of American culture on Australia is quite marked and an American who visits Australia will find many things to remind him/her of home. Not the least of which is the adoption of many American holidays and customs: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Halloween, many Christmas and New Year’s Eve traditions. This makes sense as the capitalist economies of both countries thrive on the financial benefits and increased consumer spending that accompany these ‘adopted’ celebrations and traditions.

One American holiday that quite regrettably has not been transplanted across the Pacific is Thanksgiving. I always admired this holiday, and especially so after celebrating it with American friends when visiting their country some time ago. Call me old-fashioned and sentimental, but I really enjoyed the spirit of this celebration that is all about families getting together around a celebratory meal. The giving of thanks for all the good things that have happened and that one should be grateful for in the past year, and the giving of thanks for a bountiful harvest struck me as a wonderful cause for celebration.

It is not surprising perhaps that Thanksgiving has not been adopted more widely around the world. It does not lend itself to as much consumer spending as say, Valentine’s Day or Christmas (when billions are spent on decorations, presents and public celebration). In addition, Thanksgiving seems a trifle anachronistic and cheesily old-fashioned. To celebrate the blessings of the past year with one’s family and give thanks for a plentiful harvest doesn’t seem to hold much appeal to “modern”, urban dwellers who have originated from nuclear families and perhaps are happily single or in “alternative” types of relationships. The religious overtones of Thanksgiving (having an origin in church services of gratitude) are also something that may rankle the sensibilities of the secular and hedonistic yuppies out there.

Even more importantly, I think, as we “progress” and “advance” in this country we are forgetting to give thanks, acknowledge the good things that happen to us. In our quest for increasing numbers of consumer goods, new technological gadgets, bigger houses, flashier, shinier cars and the latest fashion fads, we are forgetting something about what makes us special as humans – our innate humanity and our interdependence with other people and the special relationships that we share with them. When was the last time you hugged a special person in your life and thanked them for being there for you? When did you sit and talk with a member of your family to reminisce and express your gratitude for their presence in your life? When was the last time when you acknowledged the special contribution that your friends and acquaintances have made to your life?

Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres from Lord Howe Island. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia’s external territories. It has 2,300 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2. Its capital is Kingston. Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated on mainland Australia, on Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November, similar to the pre-World War II American observance on the last Thursday of the month. This means the Norfolk Island observance is the day before or six days after the United States’ observance. The holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships. What a wonderful custom to have picked up from these visitors!

It may be time for mainland Australians to pick up this American holiday and adopt it in a way that will enrich our lives. Thanskgiving and expressing gratitude is something that we should be doing more of. Ingratitude is a vile quality and the mark of a base, selfish and uncultured individual who does not truly appreciate what he has earnt or has been given. We should be thankful for our countless blessings and be quite vocal about it. A formal day when we reflect on this and show our thanks to those around us is a wonderful opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends who read this blog and thank you to all the special people in my life – you are appreciated and loved.


  1. Nick, what a wonderful post. And, though you are Australian, I wish you a 'happy Thanksgiving' too. I always enjoy your poetry, am thankful for your participation and always unique perspective! I also enjoy other posts of yours during the week -- particularly your recipes. Smiles.

  2. Hmmm, I hear you and I understand your point. However, all is not well in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, for even Thanksgiving (as admirable its sentiments as you have painted them), has become tainted by commercialization. Can anyone hear Thanksgiving now and not think of "Black Friday"? So here is another holiday that has been taken over by crass commercialism - and surprise-surprise! "Black Friday" is now a worldwide phenomenon embraced with glee by Australian companies too...

  3. This is a wonderful post, Nick. Thanks for imparting info I didnt know in such an entertaining post. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving early, in October - I suppose that might be closer to the harvest time of olden times when the feast was truly a celebration of the garden's bounty. I enjoyed your post very much!

  4. William Arthur Ward's quote is well worth remembering.