Today the United States celebrates Thanksgiving while we in the UK go about what is known as Thursday. I have found explaining this holiday to friends in the UK quite difficult, but I suppose it can be summed up as Christmas without the gift-giving and based loosely on a historical event (very loosely). It is also a chance for couples to practice their arguments ahead of Christmas about whose family they will be spending the holiday with.
Only slightly less tongue-in-cheek, Thanksgiving in America today involves family, food, and football (of the American variety of course), with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade thrown in for good measure (although how they’re going to be impacted by the helium shortage is anyone’s guess). It prompts some of the busiest travel day of the year in the United States, as people hop on planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and most likely watercraft to get to wherever they need to be to spend the day with family and friends (and then cause the same travel chaos in reverse a few days later).
Children are taught about the first Thanksgiving at school as an event involving the Pilgrims, portrayed as refugees escaping religious persecution, and the Native Americans, who taught them how to survive in a new land, sitting down together to enjoy a feast and give thanks for the harvest. Until the age of 10 or 11, this time of year sees students creating feathered headdresses, buckled hats, and handprint turkeys, giving the impression that headgear and wild fowl are of prime importance to the celebrations.
The reality of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is nowhere near as clear-cut as textbooks would like us to believe. Instead, much of what we “know” originates in the 19th century and appears to be based on a centuries-long game of telephone (UK readers: Chinese whispers). Yet at its core is thankfulness, so I would like to use today’s blog post to share a few things I am thankful for: MrElaineous, who lets me use this pseudonym for him and doesn’t mind me sharing our adventures with the wider world; those of you who take the time to read this blog (hello, mom and dad!); and a UK institution that manages to tick all of those boxes up there in my tagline (travel & nature & history & tea).
The National Trust was established in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter, and Hardwicke Rawnsley, and in the intervening 120 years has grown to become one of the UK’s leading charities looking after the country’s historic properties and protecting areas of beautiful countryside. If you have been following along on social media, you’ll have seen photos recently from one of the jewels of the Trust, the incredible landscape gardens of Stourhead.
These gardens have their origin in the mid-18th century when they were designed by Henry Hoare II at the beginning of the landscape garden movement. It’s easy to see the inspiration of the aristocratic Grand Tour in its construction, with buildings like the Pantheon, Temple of Flora, and Temple of Apollo seemingly take directly from the landscape paintings that were popular souvenirs of the time. Indeed, perhaps one of the most photographed views in the whole of the National Trust is looking across the lake to the Pantheon, itself a miniature replica of the one in Rome and full of statues of Roman gods and heroes.