When Your Holiday Isn't Mine

Pumpkin Pie - Mike Johnson

Things can get a little confusing in our global world. So what do you say when someone wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving...and you're French?

Dear Mr & Mrs Properly

I'm French and my wife is American. Last week she went to visit her parents, and I called from London on Thanksgiving Day to speak with her. My mother-in-law answered the phone, and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. Surely she should not be wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. I'm French! I don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I laughed, which I'm pretty sure wasn't right either. What should I have said?

Not Exactly Ungrateful....

Mrs Properly

You're right. Your mother-in-law wasn't "correct" in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. She is probably just one of those effusive Americans that occasionally forgets that not all cultures do what the Americans do.

This makes me think of one of the best holiday cards I ever received. It was from a friend living in New York City, and showed a pizza maker exchanging holiday gifts with the bagel shop owner next door. "Happy Hanukkah!" said the Italian pizza maker to the Jewish bagel shop owner. "Merry Christmas!" said the bagel shop owner to the pizza maker. They each respected the other's holiday, and therefore each other.

As for the correct response, I think it's a good-natured laugh followed by, "Actually, I'm sure it is I who should be wishing YOU Happy Thanksgiving!" She is your mother-in-law after all.

Mr Properly

In general, you should always do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Which means your mother-in-law certainly had good intentions, so you need to respond in kind. What she forgets, though, is that you don't walk around wishing everybody a happy birthday just because it's your own anniversary.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that you cannot change your parents, let alone your parents-in-law. Accept that she meant well and tell her how much you regret not being to able to join her for pumpkin pie. Even if you, like everybody else who is not American, know that pumpkin pie is the most overrated dessert in the world.