Thanksgiving season is closing in.
Whilst it’s easy to assume that because the one we hear most about is Thanksgiving USA, the celebration is held and celebrated differently around the World. We blogged about some of this last year: Thanksgiving (2012).
This year, whilst wanting to alert people to the number of holidays we may encounter when working internationally – and, of course, highlighting the fact that our own US team will be taking holidays over Thanksgiving – I thought it would be nice to ask our Canadian cousins (friends, work colleagues and family) how they celebrate.
Judith Lewis suggested: “It’s about Indian corn decorations, fallen leaves, squashed like pumpkins and good food, family & friends. ”
Catherine Beecham noted “Just family getting together in one of of the most beautiful seasons of the year.”
Katrina Cochlan echoed that thought: “… I agree with it being the best Canadian holiday! It really is just a break and about getting together with your family. And tons of food, including our favourite jello recipe. Whereas at Christmas or Easter I think it’s reasonable to serve any of a number of kinds of meat, the Thanksgiving feast must be turkey. And I feel it’s a must to lead up to the day with plenty of pumpkin-spiced Starbucks drinks.””
Three themes summed it all of the responses I had. The festival, it seems, is about:
Family and Food
Discussion around Thanksgiving lead to lots of conversation about food.
Now, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake I understand. It’s the right time of year for squash (the vegetable, not the game or the act!). Bacon and Brussels sprouts I also understand – it’s a much debated vegetable at the Christmas table where I live (in England).
But the enigma to me was Jello (jelly), mentioned repeatedly. A quick Google search suggests that this is a popular choice across North America (yes, including the USA) but I found little to suggest why. I’m sure it’s marketing in origin, but if you know, do please share!
But the big theme, common with so many celebrations, Worldwide, was the focus on family getting together.
Asked why the celebration happens, opinions were divided.
“You might decorate your home but it is all about the plentiful harvest. Our Thanksgiving is about the fruits of the harvest and giving thanks they are plentiful”, said Judith Lewis. “We’re ending the growing season up north remember.”
Others suggested celebrating the arrival of Columbus in the “New World” rather than the arrival of the Pilgrims as in the USA.
I took a good look. The reasons for the celebration have a longer, more historic connotation according to Wikipedia, which describes the celebration as having evolved across the years,to become something which changed annually to reflect an important event to be thankful for.” (Wikipedia: Thanksgiving, Canada)
So we’re all correct!
Not being “American”
Many of the Canadians I discussed Thanksgiving with were keen to put some distance between Canada and the USA, stressing a cultural difference in both the reasons for the celebration, their different history with the Native Americans/First Nation people, and the level of commercial involvement in the celebration.
Why does it matter in the work place?
Operationally, there are some obvious reasons for being aware of the national holiday:
- timing of the festival (for product availability and marketing (especially , it seems, if you supply Jello!)
- people will be away from their desks – and if you celebrate Thanksgiving in your country, this may well be a different date to the one you were expecting. We need to be very specific when talking about Thanksgiving to be clear ‘which one?’
- national tolerance to commercialising festivals varies
- around any big national holiday, almost anywhere in the World, many will choose to take additional holiday to allow time for travel to be with those they care about, or to extend their holiday allowance by tagging their holiday onto a national one. Expect work to be interrupted. Even if the people you work with aren’t taking extra time, the people they rely on for delivery may not be available.
We often suggest that if you work with someone in another country, you ask them about how much time they will be away, and what they’ll be doing. As you see each other less than when you’re physically located in the same place, it’s an easy way to help to know your co-worker better. And, of course, if you live somewhere that’s about to take a holiday, or are about to be away from your desk, try to remember the people you work with ‘virtually’. When everyone around us knows that a holiday is about to happen, it’s very easy to forget that others won’t have the same cultural clues as you that something important is about to happen. And, of course, the way we celebrate, and what it means to us, may be very different, even if we live in the same place.
Which leaves me to say, on behalf of all of us at Global integration: Have a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever and whenever you may be celebrating it!