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aubergine / eggplant / whatever (photo: bbc good food)

Given our propensity to Americanise everything we do it seems odd to me that the UK hasn’t Opted In when it comes to Thanksgiving. I feel a little hard done by, especially as there are so many other things we share with our US neighbours, in our own way.

For example, we are both United, by Kingdom or by State. We both have football, be it proper or American. We both have Solanum melongena, be it aubergine or eggplant. So why not both have Thanksgiving? Especially as we do both have Black Friday, be it spent in the pursuit of alcohol-induced oblivion or of electrical goods at knock-down prices.

The day after Thanksgiving and the Friday before Christmas are each filled with random acts of violence, desperation and indignity. Calm, rational members of society – parents, professionals, pensioners, temporarily take leave of their senses and metamorphose into screaming, cursing beasts. Department stores or city streets, both are overrun with insatiable lunatics, and what was once a recognisable town centre instead resembles a scene from an Heironymous Bosch painting.

The day after Thanksgiving should be warm and fuzzy and filled with napping and leftovers. A brisk walk in the morning should later justify beaching oneself on the sofa with turkey sandwiches and loved ones and some highly-competitive game-playing .

lunatics at the shops (photo: guardian uk)

Instead what happens? Inexplicably, everyone goes to the shops. Akin to the seventh circle of hell, normally mild-mannered mothers “accidentally” body-slam old, equally vicious grandmothers out of the way as they barrel towards the plasma TVs. Confused-looking
tourists, yesterday thankful for the unrivalled hospitality of their American hosts, today feel irrelevant and intimidated by the tidal-wave of bargain-hunters threatening to drown them where they stand.
Tempers flare, elbows fly and the Leviathan that is American Consumerism rules all.

Four weeks later and it’s Britain’s turn.

The Friday before Christmas should be warm and fuzzy and filled with dancing and fun. With Christmas only days away, everyone’s excited. Office Christmas parties are arranged, restaurants are booked and plans are made.  At the restaurant a rainbow of cocktails are ordered, and another, and another, and with that, the night has peaked. Because that’s all it takes for drinkers who only go out on one night – this night, of the year to forget how to deal with themselves and begin scratching out eyes and howling at the moon.

16th-century depiction of Black Friday (“Christ in Limbo” Heironymous Bosch c.1545)

Chaos reigns the country over. A sparkly-top-and-black-trousers-wearing secretary  hauls off her stiletto in a bid to bury it into the head of the temp who’s had the audacity to speak to Dave from accounts. Shelley from HR is crawling about  weeping and aimlessly searching for the spilled contents of her bag on a kebab-and-piss-covered pavement. The office junior has passed out in her own indignity and the restaurant toilets, not having twigged that when Geoff from cash-room said Jaegerbombs were non-alcoholic, he was lying. And lord only knows where Becky and the boy from IT have gone.

People fighting, screaming, yelling, vomiting, it’s like the last days of Rome. Except Rome at least fell and there the madness ended. This happens on an annual basis (and in some places, weekly e.g. Swansea, Newcastle, anywhere with a Stag-and-Hen “scene”),  and all under the festive glow of city centre Christmas lights. Ahh, the irony.

the end of the night, UK-style

So with all that in mind, who has it worst? The UK or the US? Again, we’re the same but different, each embracing the very worst parts of our respective stereotypes. The UK has debased, frenzied, booze-fuelled sinning; the US has all-encompassing, materialistic, consumerist desire.

But the US also has Thanksgiving. And, where our Black Friday may end with a night in the cells, or a trip to A & E, at least Americans can end Black Friday with a turkey sandwich, sitting around a brand new 50″ plasma TV.
At a knock-down price.

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