Thanksgiving - South African style

2012-12-03 08:31

Chris Moerdyk

Little over a week ago I was in the United States on one of their most important public holidays and it opened my eyes wide to the fact that here in South Africa we really are doing things wrong.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second last Thursday of November every year and it is the one day in the year where Americans of all colours, races and creeds unite in celebration.

What I found out from the locals was that Thanksgiving was special because it had no religious, cultural or commercial connotations. It was a day on which all Americans could celebrate something the vast majority of them had in common.

All of which made me wonder about our public holidays. Heritage Day in particular.

While it is important to nurture one's ancestry and culture, it occurred to me that what actually happens is that this country celebrates its differences and those differences always seem to boil down to race.

The vibe in the United States during the build-up to Thanksgiving this year was very similar to that in South Africa in the weeks before the 2010 Soccer World Cup opened here. A time during which all South Africans seemed to be united in celebration.

It would be great, in my opinion, to have a public holiday that could capture that same sense of unity.

South Africa's obsession with our differences goes beyond Heritage day. It happens just about every day.

Marketers and advertisers continue to be absolutely anal about race in spite of it having become irrelevant ages ago.

And only a few days ago the mass media were reporting that new research showed that the majority of South African internet users were black. Frankly, I absolutely fail to see the relevance.

I can understand the importance of knowing who is using the internet in terms of geographic location, age and income but it is beyond me what possible importance can be attached to whether an internet user is black or white. Of course, there will be those who will come up with all sorts of socio-scientific justifications, but I, for one, will not be buying into them. When it comes down to brass tacks, when you really think about it, in South Africa 2012, skin colour should not have any practical, moral or commercial significance at all.

As South Africans we all have aspirations whether we are rich or poor. And aspiration is colourless.

According to our constitution, all South Africans are equal.  It's time we started celebrating that.     

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  • joan.darcy.9 - 2012-12-03 09:49

    Thanks Chris, I have many American friends and have celebrated Thanksgiving with them. I have often thought that this would be a wonderful thing to do in our country where we get together with friends and family and especially say thank you for all the things that we are grateful and thankful for. A day that has no religious, cultural or other specific significance.

  • gerhard.uys.7 - 2012-12-04 12:56

    Thanks, Chris, for this very relevant article! I wish more South Africans can start thinking like this. Especially the white ones. . . Kwaa just kidding!

  • edward.patterson.923 - 2012-12-04 15:07

    @Chris; "Marketers and advertisers continue to be absolutely anal about race in spite of it having become irrelevant ages ago" Unfortunately race will continue to be relevant. As an American (who is married to a South African) we continue to struggle with racial issues. We have the crazies on both sides. The white supremacist with their shaved heads and tattoos, have nothing against tattoos so do give me a hard time on that one, it's just that the neo-nazis like their tats. They want the country segregated along racial lines. On the other side you have the black race baiters who play the race card at every opportunity, they do it because that is what they learned to do during the "struggle", yes we had our struggle here against segregation and oppression. They do it now because their livelihood is tied to racial strife and without racial strife they will become irrelevant and out of work. And then there is the vast majority in the middle for whom race isn't an issue but we always have the fringe crazies keeping the conflict alive. I wish I could say that somehow SA wouldn't experience the same thing, but unfortunately I think you will.

  • Aubsz - 2012-12-05 11:59

    Can't celebrate a holiday with such a sour beginning...yuk.

  • Clint Olivier - 2012-12-06 01:36

    how can SA or its inhabitants possibly be equal when the government is actively pursuing Affirmative Action???? your statement is preposterous!!!!!!!!!

  • dennis.schmelzenbach.5 - 2012-12-08 17:40

    Thank you Sir. We just returned from wedding and stayed the week through Thanksgiving. Wonderful experience and I agree with your position! Maybe we could start with pumpkin pie. I would have brought one in my luggage if I could.

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