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COMMENT: Why we say ‘thanks’ at Thanksgiving - Michael Apichella

Michael Apichella ANL-151123-125029001
Michael Apichella ANL-151123-125029001

As a Yank who’s celebrated 30 Thanksgivings in the UK, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the many Bury St Edmunds folks I regard as friends.

Cheery Vergistan selling the Big Issue in town; Stephen Cook, erudite owner of Churchgate Books; Jonathan Alderton-Ford, minister at Christ Church Morton Hall (and the only Canon I know who wears a donkey jacket – what’s not to like?).

Then there’s town characters, many long-gone, like the ‘Pigeon Man’ (as my kids called him) who made feeding the birds his life’s calling.

Or debonair ‘Chutney’ who wore his coat backwards and greeted everyone he met with a yelp and a friendly swipe of his stick.

I’ll never forget our many Anglo-American Thanksgivings here. We invited curious neighbours to enjoy mounds of sweet corn and potatoes, ribs, slaw, green-bean casserole, pearl onions, corn-pudding and cranberry sauce, as well as pumpkin, pecan or Mississippi-mud pie and coffee.

We’d burn calories with a rowdy game of American-football, though today, thanks to Paul Scarlett and Orchard-Street’s street parties, I prefer cricket.

No kidding. I’m very thankful to live in Bury every day of the year, not just at Thanksgiving.

I often tell my out-of-town chums Bury’s got it all. Oh, I’m not knocking other burgs – they have it all, too: if you don’t mind inconvenience. And spending a fortune.

Take theatre. The West End sets the standard, but be ready to invest hours getting there in treacle, er, traffic.

First, though, stop at St. Edmund’s Church to light a candle to St. Anthony (the patron saint of lost causes) because when it comes London parking, good luck.

At our Theatre Royal, we enjoy many of the same shows they see in London, and sundry excellent ones they don’t.

Plus you don’t need to re-mortgage your house for parking and seats. Anyhow, most Bury residents relish walking there, stopping at any number of great pubs, cafés or restaurants before and after shows.

Film? Cineworld and Abbeygate offer choice, the latter featuring a bistro plus

Indie films surpassing the best art-houses in the world.

You say you want fun without spending money? Then pack a lunch and make your way to the Abbey Gardens.

There’s pleasure year round. Mini-golf. Tennis. Bowls. A playground. Winter sledding.

In fair weather you can sit on benches in sunshine and read, listen to Bach or ‘Drenge’ with headphones, watch the squirrels and feed ducks, or, as I will today, just sit gazing at the autumn foliage, thankful for the plenitude of our wonderful little town.

It’s really fun to live in the very county where America’s favourite holiday

originated. What? You didn’t know Thanksgiving may have been started by Suffolk folk?

While American school-children learn the first American Thanksgiving was held in November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians

gathered at Plymouth Colony, giving thanks for surviving the winter, historians know that the original celebration was held almost 1000 miles south in Virginia Colony in 1619.

And that Thanksgiving was really a good, old-fashioned Suffolk Harvest Festival. What’s more, many of the partakers of America’s first Thanksgiving celebration

were almost certainly neighbours of Suffolk-born Captain Bartholomew Gosnold who left the Ipswich area to found an English-speaking colony in Virginia.

Recent scholarship makes the Suffolk link very likely, as some of Gosnold’s family members are buried in two Suffolk churchyards according to Nick Clarke, Communications Director at the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

But enough about Suffolk history. Let’s talk turkey. Thanksgiving was always a movable feast growing up. One year we’d spend it with neighbours.

The next with my grandmother. The next with my Aunt Betty who prided herself on having the biggest bird on the day.

Trust me, having the biggest Thanksgiving turkey is a point of honour for Americans.

Disregarding how much solid work goes into cooking up a Thanksgiving feast, imagine a ten-year-old boy planning to replace Aunt Betty’s bronzed 25-pound turkey with a Cornish hen when she wasn’t looking, then waiting for the shriek when she opened the oven door to serve her hungry guests.

Aunt Betty was a firm believer in tough love, and fear of being sent to a corner and missing out on my Thanksgiving dinner for causing trouble in her kitchen always kept me in line when we spent the holiday there.

Sure, given the epidemic of terrorism in Mali and Paris and elsewhere, it’s harder this year to be as thankful.

But if you set out to find something good even in bad situations you may find at least one thing for which to be thankful.

For instance, it’s said thankful people are the world’s bravest folks.

And, yes, I believe it. Remember during the Paris massacre? Some friends were celebrating a birthday as the killing began.

One of the terrorists approached their table brandishing his AK-47. When African-born French citizen Ludo Boumbas saw his friend about to be shot, he threw himself in front of her, losing his life, but courageously saving the


Ludo showed the knuckle-dragging gunmen it’s better to lay down your life for another than to save yourself, as Jesus taught us.

Brave Ludo, grateful for friendship, perished for one of his friends.

Since this is so, he died well.

May he inspire us to be thankful for all we have here in Bury St. Edmunds, not just today, but all year ‘round! Happy Thanksgiving!

Popular speaker and lecturer Michael Apichella is an award-winning writer and an artist who’s made the UK his home for well over 30 years.

Visit his Website at www.michaelapichella.com, contact him at apichellaspeaker@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter, @MApichellaPhD.


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