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Kittredge: An Offering

Here we are at the time of year when we roll out family traditions with bravado. For many this is a great solace and comfort, but for others it can be a clashing symbol of what’s changed, what’s missing, who’s gone. No wonder the air seems charged, having as it does such conflicting emotional ions butting about: anticipation and joy, anticipation and dread.

When I was growing up there were two national holidays that were not celebrated with any verve in our house: the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. My father, though in love with America and an American citizen since 1941, was raised in England. He saw no reason for fireworks and parades on Independence Day and couldn’t rally behind the reenactment of the Pilgrim repast. My mother and I were thus left with a free floating desire for celebration and feasting, particularly at Thanksgiving. Lacking the traditional focus, we often we put on a splendid dinner that had nothing whatsoever to do with normal American Thanksgiving fare.

What we did was to cook food from a different country each Thanksgiving. One year it was Syria, another Mexico, Lebanon, Spain, Italy, Morocco, China.

And I’ve begun to wonder if this might be a good approach to the holiday every year – especially this one, when cultural and ethnic differences are so much on our minds. So my husband and I’ve asked those who will join us to bring a dish from another country, specifically a country with whom we are at war or at odds. We’ve also asked them to share a vignette about the culture of that country, its people or traditions, but not its political situation. When I told a friend our plan, she wondered if we’d found our guest list dwindling.

Across the globe people suffer realities we cannot easily imagine. But they love and cuddle as we do; they have friends and family and heartbreaks and joys, bad hair days, aches and pains and terrible fear. So in a small way this Thanksgiving we’ll try to love our neighbors, to celebrate all people, by trying to understand different cultures, by eating what they eat and hearing stories of their lives.

This morning our house is steeped in the rich smell of turmeric and garam masala, exotic ingredients that bring to mind a world and people who, though foreign, are also very familiar, in the deepest and most elemental sense.

Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.
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