Thanksgiving is upon us. The day when the country comes together as one nation indivisible for unbridled eating, the one holiday that truly revolves around food and comes closest to typifying an Italian festa in the volume of food and length of meal. Each year, friends and family inevitably, innocently ask us, “What do Italians do for Thanksgiving?”
The answer is, nothing. Thanksgiving is not a holiday there. (But no Thansgiving also means there is none of the lunacy known as Black Friday, either.) Italians know about Thanksgiving, of course. Our Italian friends, upon hearing the words “festa del ringraziamento,” immediately respond with, “Ah, si. Tacchino!” They’ve all seen enough film and TV images of enormous turkeys roasted to perfection and carved tableside to know our national fondness for fowl. They are always happy to learn first-hand that it is, indeed, our official holiday food.
Then they usually shrivel their noses and say, “Mah! Wouldn’t it be better to have a nice porchetta, or something with...flavor?” They don’t generally think of turkey as being very tasty, but that, I tell them, is because they’ve never had the pleasure of a succulently roasted bird. Finding a whole turkey in Italy is about as hard as finding a decent caffé in America.
We always debated about inviting friends and throwing an American Thanksgiving shin-dig, but since it’s not a holiday for them the party would have to be held on the weekend; for us it just didn't feel right to not celebrate it on the correct calendar day. I mean, part of the fun is in knowing that the entire nation is celebrating together.
Thanksgiving may not be celebrated in Italy but don’t feel too bad; Italy is certainly not lacking in holidays. In fact, according to their national calendar they have twelve public holidays compared to our eight in America. Throw in a few local festas and a couple of saints’ days, and you can garner yourself even more days away from the office. Italians also receive an average of 33 vacation days, compared to our depressing national average of 13.
And that is before they start building bridges. It is common to fare un ponte by tacking on a day or two before or after a holiday to “bridge” it to the weekend and thus turn an ordinary one-day celebration into a three or four day affair. Many of our friends take advantage of the opportunity to pass a long weekend in a neighboring region while also crossing off a few extra days from their work calendar. Clever, actually.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving is the one holiday in America that usually comes with a built-in 'bridge'. We are going to enjoy the four-day weekend, while being careful to avoid all streets that lead to malls or shopping centers. We will enjoy our first full-on Thanksgiving meal in three years and stuff ourselves in the company of friends and in the national, gluttonous unity of the whole country, and give thanks for the blessings, opportunities, and joys of the past year.