No, it’s not celebrated in Aotearoa, although Black Friday is now firmly on the retailers’ calendar, replacing Boxing day (December 26) as the day with the highest retail turnover. Besides, it celebrates a myth and a whitewashing of America’s colonial past.
Before ill health forced me into early retirement 15 years before I anticipated, I worked for the New Zealand subsidiary of a multinational information technology company. The managing director of the NZ subsidiary was typically (but not always) a foreign national – often American. In the early years of the 1990s an American was appointed to the role of managing director, and in his wisdom, he decided that as the parent company headquarters were located in the US, the NZ subsidiary should follow the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Staff located in Auckland where the NZ head office was located were “treated” to a luncheon with turkey and speeches that were mostly meaningless to the attendees. Staff in the fifteen or so branches scattered across the country were “less fortunate”, as all we were “treated” to was turkey sandwiches that had been couriered to each staff member in every branch.
I hate to think what it cost the company, as turkey was almost unknown here at the time. I presume it was imported specially for the occasion. The six staff members in the branch I was based at took one bite of a sandwich, and instantly tossed all their sandwiches into the rubbish. None of us had tasted turkey before, and not one of us liked the taste one tiny bit. The same occurred in every branch, and apparently most of the turkey served in Auckland had a similar fate. It’s not something the Kiwi palate could easily accommodate.
No one had the courage to inform the managing director what they thought of the whole Thanksgiving fiasco, so he decided to celebrate Thanksgiving the following year. While many Auckland staff found excuses not to attend the luncheon, the branches hatched up a plan of their own. Every sandwich package delivered to the branches was carefully repackaged, addressed to the Managing director and sent by overnight courier back to Auckland. There were about 80 staff members across all the branches, so when he arrived at his office the following morning, the managing director found 80 packages of stale turkey sandwiches waiting for him.
We never heard mention of Thanksgiving again.
24 Nov, 2022 at 11:37 pm
Which only goes to prove you should not try to foist your beliefs on others. I so dislike the American custom of Trick or Treat at Halloween that seems to be growing in my country at the expense of Bonfire night celebrations.
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:00 am
Your Bonfire night is our Guy Fawkes night, which was a big occasion when I was a child, but is dwindling in recent years as the popularity of Halloween increases. I had never heard of Halloween until I was well into my teens. Personally I’d prefer to see both replaced by commemoration of Parihaka which is of much more local significance.
24 Nov, 2022 at 11:43 pm
Well done Kiwi’s going cold turkey, should have asked the Yank for Marmite sandwiches:)
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:07 am
It would still have been a Thanksgiving celebration. Besides, day old Marmite sandwiches wouldn’t have been any better than day old turkey sandwiches. If he was at all culturally sensitive, he could have done something for Dominion Day, or Waitangi Day, or ANZAC day, or even Queen’s Birthday, which would have been fine as far as I’m concerned as, apart from Dominion day, they are all public holidays and I would not have been at work 🙂
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:11 am
Barry, that was an ingenious solution to a bothersome luncheon.
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:21 am
It worked because every staff member outside of head office acted together. It also helped that the company had a very flat management structure. The branches were managed from head office, and there was only one tier of management between staff at branch level and the managing director. Branch staff deliberately kept that management out of the loop.
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:23 am
The reaction on the face of the MD must have been priceless when he found all those packages waiting for him.
How are you doing these last few days?
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:33 am
Rumour had it that the MD cancelled all appointments for the day 🙂
I’m doing fine if I ignore a recent increase in the frequency of migraines and persistent
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. Both conditions I’ve inherited from my mother’s side of the family going back 3 generations at least, and I’ve passed both on to my daughter and granddaughter.
25 Nov, 2022 at 3:28 am
As a fellow migraineur (though mine are controlled), I offer my sympathy.
25 Nov, 2022 at 3:37 am
Sorry; I hit “reply” accidentally. As an American, I found your story both amusing and upsetting. I agree: no country should foist its culture on another. Of course, Thanksgiving is also painful due to its alleged origins as a purportedly peaceful meal between the first Americans and the settlers. I am in touch with a Native American who wrote publicly: “On Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the Native Americans who fed the newcomers to their land.” After a pause, he continued: “What were they thinking?”
25 Nov, 2022 at 9:23 am
That is an amusing story, especially when the first British/Euro settlers of North America didn’t know what a turkey was until native Americans introduced them to the bird.
Also – having worked in the offices of American companies, I share your experience of American management. In one office, there was an American flag I had to contemplate every day. However I had to work for British Co.’s too, and one French, and those were worse.
25 Nov, 2022 at 12:55 pm
I think turkey is the most bland food ever invented. My family would just as soon eat an Asian stir fry on thanksgiving but the traditional feast is my mother in law’s favorite. We’ve found some pretty tasty side dishes to dress up the meal but for the most part I skip the turkey. So proud to learn that our greatest export is Black Friday. You all must just hate us.
25 Nov, 2022 at 1:47 pm
Valentines Day and Halloween are also recent imports here, although we can’t blame America entirely for those as they do exist in different forms across Europe. However, we’ve done a copy and paste of the American versions. And the reason for that is that retailers promote them for the $$$$
25 Nov, 2022 at 9:37 pm
Oh, but I did so enjoy this post … I even made my granddaughter stop what she was doing so I could read it to her and she, also, enjoyed it! I second what David said … we should NOT try to foist our beliefs and traditions on other cultures, but rather value our differences!