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Israelis at the Thanksgiving table, or thank you America for strange food and football

We spent our first real Thanksgiving Dinner as a family at the home of a colleague of my husband. They taught together at a university in a small Midwestern college town.

We were very happy for the invitation. We were curious about this national American holiday and were anxious to spend it with real Americans, especially since 8 months earlier I gave birth to our first American baby girl.

We were invited to come at the early afternoon, and when we arrived at the  assigned hour we found our friends at the den in the basement watching TV. To our great amazement, they didn’t turn the TV off when we got there. On the contrary, they asked us to join them and watch the game together.  To myself I noted this flaw in hospitality, in my country  a holiday dinner is about being together, sitting around the table, talking, laughing and eating.  Here, even when we sat together around the Thanksgiving table and the food was served (all sweet: Turkey with cranberry dressing, sweet jams, and sweet pumpkin pie) the game was still going on strong and never in the back ground. For me, the strangeness of this experience,  emphasized how far away from home we were.

My husband and I both went to graduate school in a similar Midwestern town (actually it was Columbia Mo which was chosen by John Williams as William Stoner’s university  town). However, as graduate students we neither attended a football game nor a Thanksgiving dinner , and I had no idea that, in American culture ,the two were synonymous.

Today, back in Israel, this is a distant memory but to write this post I first checked my memory and googled “Thanksgiving “and Football” and here is what I found:

“Thanksgiving is a holiday that is steeped in tradition. After all, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the turkey and dressing and the pumpkin pie with whipped cream. And, of course, it just would not be Thanksgiving without NFL Football.

 Pro football has become as big a tradition at Thanksgiving as the turkey and pumpkin pie, and if your Thanksgiving celebrations are like mine, most of the football fans head right for the television as soon as they hit the door.


Gradually Thanksgiving has become one of our favorite family holidays, right after Passover and Rosh Hashana. We  celebrated it our way but gave thanks to our good life and good fortune in this wonderful and strange county called America.