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DIANE PHILLIPS: The missing Bahamian holiday – when do we officially give thanks?

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Diane Phillips

FIRST it was the decision to peg Bahamian currency to the US dollar when a choice between the past and the future had to be made. Call it the first milestone in a culture that would slide into alignment with its neighbour to the north over the following decades. Later it was sharing the same taste in music, fast food, the stuff of everyday life, even the jeans we wore.

Slowly, the Americanisation of Bahamians was taking shape. We bought cars with steering wheels intended for American highways and drove them on the other side of the street in The Bahamas. The first stop on many Bahamians’ travel itinerary was predictable – Walmart or Target. We helped make Walmart America’s number one grocer. We travelled to Cleveland Clinic in Florida for annual physicals and to colleges throughout the US to visit sons and daughters studying abroad.

Unintentionally, Bahamians became more Americanised in a myriad of ways though we clung with fervor to British law. Our holidays were an odd mixture. But something different happened this year. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like more Bahamians than ever celebrated Thanksgiving, an historic record of turkeys and stuffing and cranberries on display in the food stores, more offices closing a bit earlier, a cohort of public officials in one area asking for the day off though pledging to complete work.

Saying the words out loud, the Americanisation of Bahamians, may make us bristle inside as we scramble to pull out every detail that sets us apart and makes us distinctly Bahamian. Americans don’t have rake ’n scrape, probably have no idea how to make peas ’n rice or a real mac and cheese. They would never understand the role of Grammy and how she raised you up right, or backyards after church on Sunday. The opening of crawfish season, the regattas, the wailing over a body when a loved one dies, they wouldn’t get any of that, not really.

But for all those cultural nuances that set us apart, the stark reality is that we are becoming more Americanised and recognising or observing Thanksgiving is nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps because we have a lot to be thankful for in this post-pandemic climate with a strong economy with near full employment, we want to adopt the holiday that was the first holiday celebrated in the New World when the Pilgrims survived and celebrated the first harvest.

Perhaps there is another reason that has little to do with the economy or the reasons to be grateful. More Bahamian families have American connections, sons and daughters who went off to study, to earn a degree or certification and along the way found a soul mate, married, settled down and only return home on holidays now. Holidays like Thanksgiving when Americans have a four-day break from work.

I could spend the next 10,000 words on the heart-wrenching outflux of young, smart, promising Bahamians and what the brain drain is doing to the country and more importantly, what it means to the future of The Bahamas if we continue to lose many of the best and the brightest. They have their reasons for not returning, less or no opportunity in their chosen field here, lower pay at something that is not exactly what they were aiming for, higher cost of living, less to do, but mostly about the opportunity. Thousands and thousands of Bahamians living abroad who come home for Thanksgiving, an all-American holiday that brings loved ones home to a place that is increasingly celebrating it without calling it a holiday, cooking the turkeys and ham, the stuffing, the gravy, the sweet potato casserole and, yes, the mac and cheese.

So maybe it is time to create a Bahamian day of gratitude. We do not need to name it Thanksgiving but we can pause and appreciate those who have lent a hand during the year, shared a meal or a story that made us laugh, gave up their seat so we could sit, or in some way made our world or the world around them a better place.

A day of gratitude is our missing holiday. So what if it is American? One more good idea is perfectly okay and a whole lot better for us than some of the ideas and habits we picked up – unintentionally, of course.

Comments

birdiestrachan 3 months, 1 week ago

The native Indian were good to them lest we forget and the rest is history

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DDK 3 months, 1 week ago

Giving thanks is a good thing, however, we have too many holidays already, not to mention eating may be the number one pastime in The Bahamas and another one would be just another excuse to stuff faces🤣

Furthermore, " Harvest Festivals in the United Kingdom take place on different dates after the end of harvest, usually in September or October, depending on what crops are grown and when they are harvested locally. Unlike Thanksgiving in the US, the date has not been made an official public holiday." Churches in the Bahamas have been celebrating harvest thanksgiving for countless decades.

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truetruebahamian 3 months ago

Harvest Festival good, American thanksgiving bad unless we can squeeze the yanks’ pockets, at least that’s my heartfelt opinion.

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