When I lived in the USA, I would always celebrate Thanksgiving at home; I enjoyed the traditional holiday foods and the family time.
Also, Thanksgiving happens to be a very, very convenient holiday for Jews in the USA who observe the Sabbath (which begins at sunset on Friday) because Thanksgiving is always on Thursday. Therefore, we are already with our loved ones for the secular national holiday and don’t have to deal with the stress of rushing to arrive at their homes before sunset on Friday (because, traditionally, it’s forbidden for us to drive on the Sabbath).
That said, I’ve never been particularly committed to Thanksgiving. While I certainly would have maintained the tradition if I’d chosen to remain in and raise my family in the USA (simply by default), I lack the motivation to proactively celebrate it here in Israel. Apparently, Thanksgiving is simply not very important to me.
Still, many American Jews living in Israel do continue celebrating Thanksgiving. And, actually, I’ve found that it’s very common for them to celebrate this secular holiday on Friday evening, rather than on Thursday, because many Jewish families are already together for their weekly Friday night Sabbath dinners.
My friend Hersh is one such American Jew residing in Jerusalem, and he has been inviting us over for Thanksgiving-Sabbath Friday night dinner at his home for years (because I’m one of his local American-raised friends). If it weren’t for Hersh, I almost certainly would not have continued celebrating this holiday while living in Israel; in fact, last year, during the pandemic when Hersh did not invite us, I skipped Thanksgiving entirely. This didn’t bother me.
This year, Hersh and his family invited us once again for Thanksgiving-Sabbath dinner, and we happily accepted. Truth be told, we’re looking forward to spending quality time with them more than celebrating the holiday itself; but, unexpectedly, I find that I am harboring increased feelings of Thanksgiving nostalgia this week…
Perhaps the longer I live in Israel, and the less American I come to feel… the more ‘American’ moments come to hold a special significance for me.
While I remain feeling quite unmotivated to take any initiative and celebrate Thanksgiving with my own family at home… Maybe it’s exactly that lack of personal emotional investment in this holiday of my youth that’s beginning to niggle at me.
I seem to be feeling that Thanksgiving should matter more to me.