Attitude of Gratitude: Thanksgiving for Dutch-Americans

A long way to come, Dutch East Indies-Indonesia to America


there is no mention, all over the internet, about how Dutch families celebrate their first Thanksgivings in the U.S.. Nor is there mention  how Thanksgiving feasts evolved for Dutch immigrant families over the years.  So it is up to me to enlighten you about one

Dutch family, the Jobsis-DeVries (later Brown family too).

A long way to come, some from the Dutch East Indies (above), some from Holland

There are plenty of internet links to Thanksgiving celebrations IN the Netherlands, as well as international Thanksgiving celebrations IN the U.S., be sure to check those out at the end of this post. However, here is our Thanksgiving story.

Our first independent Thanksgiving in the U.S. occurred in 1965, our second year in Utah. We had all accepted an invitation in 1964, 10 months after our arrival for our  first Thanksgiving. I liked the rolls, and nothing else. All the people, the amount of food seemed strange. Mama observed that a huge turkey, numerous pies and many people were part of the feast. She was preparing for the pared-down version we would soon celebrate.

The next year we all thought we were ready for our solo Thanksgiving experience. Mama listened to all of the stories from new women friends. Each story involved waking at dawn to stuff the bird, and then heave it into the oven. Then she studied the handy chart that came on the plastic turkey wrapper, and thought the early a.m. routine was ridiculous for a small family with a small turkey. Then she forgot her oven would take longer due to the altitude, forgot she had an unreliable oven, and waited.

We all waited for a done, golden brown turkey.

Then we waited some more.

Once past the roasting time on the package, our turkey still wasn’t done yet. Papa asked about it over, and over, and over again, “Heh, is it still not done!?” No, it wasn’t done then.

Thirty minutes later it still wasn’t done.

Due to what must be a family of blood-sugar-problem people, Papa’s starvation in WWII  Japanese labor camps, and Mammie’s own deprivation in Nazi-occupied the Netherlands, eating late was not popular at our house. My sister and I were 7 and 4; we didn’t know the deeper reasons why waiting for food was miserable for our parents. We just thought it was miserable too; something smelled good, but we couldn’t eat yet.

“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.

So suffering must become love. That is the mystery.”

Katherine Mansfield, August 20 in Each Day a New Beginning

I called Mama, now age 80, tonight, and asked about our waiting. We agreed our family  probably only waited forty-five minutes, an eternity.She remembered the small oven, the slow oven, the altitude.

I remember us all concluding that this American custom of Thanksgiving was nothing special, a lot of waiting around, kind of anticlimatic.

But then our attitude of gratitude evolved.

Every year since 1965 we had a perfectly roasted turkey, all the trimmings and a serene Thanksgiving. The tradition of gratitude, the tradition of a holiday which basically has low expectations and high pay0offs  in appreciation, became very popular with us.

Here are some things that did NOT describe the Jobsis family on most occasions:

Always peaceful, laid back, patient, enjoying humdrum times,  measured slow communication

Here is what DID described the Jobsis family every Thanksgiving since we got it right:

Mellow, taking turns talking, appreciating great company, great food, AND patiently  enjoying an ordinary day.

An attitude of gratitude turned out to be perhaps the most important life lesson received at every life turning point, whether on Thanksgiving, times of hardship, times of grieving, or my own teen recovery from alcoholism.

Like all families, we went on to have many Thanksgiving and turkey adventures.

What are your most grateful moments with Thanksgiving?

What are your international/multicultural experiences?

What are some of your most memorable times?

Here are some of ours, and at the end “ta-dah!” the winning internet enteries for international celebrations of Thanksgiving.

  • The year I made just Papa and I a Thanksgiving feast (as Mama and my sister were in the Netherlands). I read a recipe and roasted the turkey inside a grocery store paper bag in the oven. Papa was horrified, I’m sure he thought it was a repeat of 1965.  If we would have had a fire extinguisher around, he would have been holding it on guard. Our feast turned out great.
  • The years I first made my own adult Thanksgiving feasts, I inevitably left plastic or paper wrapped “gross parts” inside one turkey cavity or the other. That’s when I decided that turkeys are very forgiving and rewarding birds. Each roasted beast still tasted fine. Come to think of it I must have done the same with the paper-bag turkey I fixed Papa;  we both survived.
  • The year I discovered that my husband, Don, loved to prepare a Weber barbecue turkey. This turns out to be the best way, to enjoy turkey  and leaves me free to do all the other dishes indoors and dominate the kitchen, ah, bliss.
  • The years that my sister and her family tried the deep frying the turkey experience. Yum, Weber turkey still wins out.
  • The years Don, Dakota and I spent part of our day at 12 step program fellowship halls, sharing food and making sure no recovering alcoholic or addict has to feel alone or get drunk on Thanksgiving day.

What is truly best of all? That a family who for two years wondered about this new holiday, Thanksgiving (which some claim was originally a Dutch influence on America), embraced it so wholeheartedly, just like these other families. Blog on celebrating thanksgiving in the Netherlands for American expat’s and others…. Thanksgiving in Holland with sauerkraut (horrors instead of turkey), written to her dutch-american and Canadian-american family. Her oven was too small for turkey. International thanksgiving with a give away opportunity for readers. Check out Amjife, who made thanksgiving from scratch in Holland. the winner, the evolution of Thanksgiving, with Martha Steward and all, for a different immigrant family in the U.S. I love every detail in this blog, and how the birth of a grandchild changed it all.

A claim that Thanksgiving came from the Netherlands via the Pilgrims in 1619



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