Giving Thanks

Do you ever stop to pause and think about how much we have to be grateful for?  As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and to-do lists.  So I always try to take a moment to reflect and give thanks for all the blessings around me.  Of course, there are the big-ticket items that usually top everyone’s gratitude list: health, family, employment, and freedom.  But lots of smaller acts of kindness grace our days as well—the friendly smile, the word of encouragement, the offer to help, the hug—and it’s important to slow down and appreciate the simple gestures that often go unrecognized.

In the United States we have a holiday set aside just for this occasion.  It’s called Thanksgiving, and is my favorite time of year.  As far as we know, the first idea of Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts back in 1621.  During the early days of America, some of the first English settlers known as Pilgrims landed on the shores of New England.  To give thanks for their first successful fall harvest, the Pilgrims held a feast with the food they had cultivated throughout the year.  From that time on, this annual custom was celebrated in a variety of ways across the country.  But not until 1941 did the fourth Thursday of November officially become the national Thanksgiving holiday.

Traditionally, every Thanksgiving, families and friends gather to share a meal and spend time with one another.  And for those who find themselves away from home or residing abroad, Americans often band together wherever they are to commemorate the occasion.  For those like me who have spent many Thanksgivings away from home, I find it equally important to share U.S. culture and customs with the local community where I live.  I think there is no better way to learn about people than to get acquainted with local dishes and swap stories and memories around food.

This year I will be sharing some of my family traditions with Armenians across the country by appearing on “The Power of Taste” culinary show on Armenia TV.  I filmed an episode that will air on Saturday where I prepared Grandma Tracy’s Cranberry Salad, and even called my Mom to confirm if the preparation process was correct!  I had a great time making this dish, talking about the Thanksgiving holiday and the traditions associated with preparing my favorite holiday salad.  I hope you’ll try the recipe at home and let me know how it turns out!

You might be wondering about other dishes that round out a Thanksgiving dinner.  For starters, there’s the turkey and stuffing which tend to be the main staples at the dinner table.  Can you believe that about 45 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving in the United States?  And if people have questions about the preparation process, you can call a hotline and have experts help you figure out how to bake a perfect turkey!

Side dishes and desserts can vary by region, but there are certainly fan favorites.  For example, southerners are known for fried turkey and homemade macaroni and cheese.  Other staple food items include green beans, cornbread, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, wild rice, stuffing, corn pudding, and cranberry relish.  Desserts come in an assortment of pies—pecan, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, key lime and many more to suit all the taste buds.  Here at Embassy Yerevan one of our great traditions is to treat our local Armenian colleagues to a Thanksgiving dessert social to show them how much we appreciate all their hard work.

I want to close by saying how extremely thankful I am for the opportunity to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia.  This season gives me an opportunity to reflect on all that I’ve seen and done here over the last several months.  It goes without saying that my favorite moments have been those where I’ve had the chance to meet Armenian youth, entrepreneurs, farmers, artisans, musicians and many more.  Your warmth and kindness in welcoming me to Armenia is not forgotten.  I look forward to sharing many more wonderful memories with all of you, and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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