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Yes, in Canada, today is Thanksgiving Day.  It is much the same as American Thanksgiving:  turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, family getting together…  But it’s not nearly as important to Canadians (as a generalization) as it is to Americans (another fine generalization).  It is my impression that in the US, Thanksgiving is considered the most important holiday of the year.  Families will come together at Thanksgiving and not at Christmas.  I would venture to say (in another sweeping generalization) that Canadians will tend to gather as a family at Christmas, and consider gathering then as more important than gathering at Thanksgiving.  And my impression is that the opposite is true in the US.  (Feedback?  I’d love to know if my sweeping generalizations are true or not. :o)

Big Hair Envy asked if I’d share some of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions.  Well, my family is not a real traditional family.  We’re an Air Force family, which means we’re spread out a lot.  (Less at the moment, as three of my siblings live within four hours of each other in Alberta.)  This means that at Thanksgiving, whoever is within a reasonable drive of each other will have dinner together.  So I went to my parents’ house (across town) yesterday, and my siblings all gathered at Sis1’s house.

I almost always spend Thanksgiving with my parents.  I am usually the one who lives closest.  I’m also single, and there seems to be an expectation that single folks will do the family thing.

We used to have the full-on traditional T’giving meal:  roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (‘cuz we’re Irish-ish and the world would end if we had a meal without them), a second vegetable (usually brussels sprouts since I tried them and developed a preference), pumpkin pie.  Sometimes we’d have yams.  My mother used to always make it a big, fancy meal, using the “good” china, putting out “pick trays” of cheese cubes, pickles, tomatoes, carrot sticks, celery sticks.  We also used to have Jello salad, which was either green or red Jello with small cubes of apple mixed in before it solidified.  (I have never liked Jello salad;  I have never understood it.  Anybody else know what I’m talking about?)

This is the first year that we have not had at least some semblance of the turkey dinner.  My mother has a stomach condition and can’t eat turkey anymore.  She hasn’t been able to for quite some time now, but until this year, she has always made turkey dinner for my father and me.  She took an uncharacteristically selfish (in a positive way) stand this year and said we were having steak.  So the tradition for a “fancy” steak dinner includes sauteed mushrooms, some sort of potato (again, it is a requirement in my parents’ house), brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie.

Another part of our family tradition is that we have the family dinner on the Sunday, rather than the Monday (which is, I believe, the actual Thanksgiving Day).  I asked my mother about it the other day, and she said that they started doing that because people could travel on the Saturday, have the big meal on the Sunday, and travel home on the Monday.  Since it is only a three-day weekend in Canada, this makes sense.

We don’t have any other family traditions associated with T’Giving.  Many families will go around the table to share what they are thankful for.  We don’t do that.  I don’t think my father understands why people would do such a thing.  (My father is a conundrum.  Another post for another day.)  Some families play touch football.  We’ve never done that, either.  We do all eat too much, which isn’t so much tradition as it is inevitable.

Sometimes, one of my siblings will call to wish us all a Happy T’Giving.  Or more than one.  But this is not mandatory with T’Giving, the way it is at Christmas.  At Christmas, we all must talk to each other.  Someone starts things off (one or the other of my sisters, usually), and calls another person.  Who then must call another household, who must call the first household.  A happy little round robin of phoning.  It doesn’t all have to happen on Xmas day;  it is acceptable to wait until Boxing Day.  (Which is the day after Xmas.  I’ve heard that there is no such day in the US;  maybe I’ll blog about that sometime.)

I can’t help but think that this is a bit of a disappointing post.  My family just doesn’t do traditions, for the most part.  My father really dislikes them, and nobody else pushes it.  I know my sisters have their own family traditions, but I don’t really know what they are.

So the fact that we don’t really have many traditions probably says a lot about my family.  As I commented to my parents last night, our biggest tradition for holidays like T’Giving and Xmas is being together.  Usually not all of us, but whoever is close by gets together and shares a meal.  And to me, that’s what those days are all about.

Here in Canada, this coming weekend is our Thanksgiving weekend.  So, instead of doing a TT about pet peeves, I decided to do one about things I am thankful for.  I can always bitch about my pet peeves next week.  🙂

1.  I am thankful for my parents, who are strong, wise, generous, and who love me so very much.

2.  I am thankful for my best buddy, Dannan, the little brown dog.  He makes it possible for me to get up every morning and smile.

3.  I am thankful for my sisters and brother (Sis1, Sis2, and Brother Bear).  They are possibly the best siblings in the world;  certainly better than I deserve sometimes!

4.  I am thankful for my best friend, Roomie.  She is a strong support, and has been instrumental in my recovery.

5.  I am thankful that I had my breakdown, because I am much better off than I would have been if it hadn’t happened.

6.  I am thankful for my counsellor, DD, who is exactly what I want and need in a therapist.

7.  I am thankful I live in Canada (sorry, non-Canadians), because I am Canadian.  (If you happen to be Canadian, I think you know what that means!)

8.  I am thankful that I have a warm, secure place to live and food to eat when I’m hungry.

9.  I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who work on behalf of animals and children, who need others to be their advocates.

10.  I am thankful that my mother instilled in me a love of reading.

11.  I am thankful that I started my blogs.  I have met wonderful people, laughed A LOT, seen some absolutely amazing photographs, and managed to write fairly consistently.

12.  I am thankful for memes like Thursday Thirteen, because they lead me to new blogs that I might never have otherwise discovered.

13.  Finally, I am thankful that I have so many wonderful friends, who make me laugh, let me know I’m loved, and keep having faith in me.  And are there to be my support when I would just fall over without them.

For more Thursday Thirteens, check out Beth’s super site!

Up here in Canada, we too are in the midst of a federal election.  Thank goodness that our election campaigns only last a couple of months!

It’s amazing what a difference the interwebs can make:  There is a group on facebook that is organizing a vote-swapping campaign to make sure that the Conservatives (and Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister) don’t get a majority government.  This group has 6,304 members, which says something.  I’m just not sure what, exactly, it does say.  Maybe I’ll have some idea (and some point) by the end of this post.

For anyone who doesn’t know much about Canadian politics, a quick primer.  (Warning:  Extremely boring paragraphs ahead.) We don’t vote for our Prime Minister the way Americans vote for the President.  We vote for a candidate in our local riding (an area that is represented by a Member of Parliament, our ruling body), everybody else does the same, and the party that wins the most “seats” in Parliament becomes the federal government.  The Prime Minister is the leader of that party.

Now, just because a party wins the most seats, doesn’t mean that a majority of Canadians voted for them.  For instance, right now the Conservative party is our government.  But they did not get 50%-plus-one of all the votes cast in the last federal election.

This gets a bit complicated to explain, and also very dull.  So, I’ll try to illustrate by example.

Suppose that in the Riding of the Loops, Candidate A gets 38% of the votes, Candidate B gets 31% of the votes, Candidate C gets 24%, and Candidate D gets the remaining 7%.  (Does that add up to 100%?  Ummm, good.)  Candidate A will be the one elected as a Member of Parliament, because he/she received more of the popular vote than any of the other candidates, even though 62% of the voters actually voted against Candidate A.  The winning candidate does not need a majority of the popular vote, just a higher percentage of votes than any other candidate.

Expand this across the country.  Many, if not most, ridings have at least three candidates running.  A candidate can, theoretically, win with 34% of the popular vote.  I haven’t done any research on this, but I feel comfortable with the assertion that very few ridings are actually won by candidates with at least 50% of the popular vote.

This leads to a very odd situation here in good ol’ Canada:  Party B may actually receive a majority of the popular vote, added up across the entire country, but because they came in second in the majority of local riding elections, they are not the government.  As long as Party A won the majority of ridings (and remember, they don’t need a majority of the popular vote in an individual riding to win that riding), they will form the government.

(Gah, this is turning into the most boring post ever.  I studied Poli Sci during my undergraduate degree, and one prof strongly encouraged me to go to graduate school so I could teach it someday.  I’m glad I didn’t, because explaining the Canadian political system is, to me, endlessly boring.  And, I would probably have to pay closer attention to what goes on.  Ick.  And, I don’t seem to be so good at it!)

Soooo, if Party A wins more than 50%-plus-one of the ridings (and therefore, seats in Parliament), then that party forms a “majority government”.  If party discipline holds (which it often does in Canada), then that party can pretty much have free rein.*

If Party A wins less than 50%-plus-one of the ridings, but still has more seats than any other party, then that makes a “minority government”.  The so-called ruling party requires the cooperation of other parties to do anything, because they have to get to the 50%-plus-one mark to pass any legislation.

Woah, I’m so bored myself that I think I’ve forgotten my point.  No doubt you are fast asleep, or checking out somebody else’s blog.

Yeah, my point is this:  the current government is a minority one, so lots of compromises with the other parties had to be made in order to get anything done.  And many Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) want to make sure that the Conservatives do not get a majority government this time.  I think they’re kind of conceding that the Conservatives will have a minority government, but at least then they have to compromise somewhat.

And because of our peculiar way of running elections, we have this vote-swapping phenomenon on facebook.  The idea is that:

…it allows voters in different ridings to swap votes to best ensure the Conservatives don’t win. Let’s say your preferred candidate has no chance to win your riding. You can swap that vote out with someone else in the group who will vote for your party in a riding where it has chances to win, while you’ll vote for the party that has the best chance to stop the Conservatives in your own riding.

So Jane in Riding ABC wants to vote for the Green Party, but the party has no chance of winning.  But the Liberal Party does have a chance of beating the Conservatives.  So Jane swaps votes with John, who lives in Riding XYZ.  In Riding XYZ, the Green Party could very well beat the Conservatives, so John’s preferred vote for the Liberals will be “thrown away”.  John casts a vote for the Greens, Jane casts a vote for the Liberals, the numbers are all supposed to work out so that each party’s percentage of the popular vote is the same as if everybody voted the way they wanted to in their own ridings, BUT the Conservatives are edged out because the votes have all been cast strategically in ridings that are expected to be close races.  And the Conservatives lose seats because we are all so strategical, and another minority government is born.

I don’t know if you follow all this.  I don’t know if I follow all this.  Check out the facebook page if you’re confused, and if you care whether you understand this.  Or, look at the CTV news story that indicates that Elections Canada has determined that vote-swapping is not illegal but still recommends against it:  first, because people might be misled by “someone acting under multiple or false identities to trick them into voting for a particular candidate”;  and second, because what if the person you swap with doesn’t follow through?  (Ed. note:  How would you even know?  And you can always trust a Canadian, lol.)

Quite a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  (You didn’t ask me, but it’s my blog and apparently I wanted to write a long and extremely boring post today.)  But one thing that it does show is that Canadians are tired of feeling like their votes don’t count.  Tired of having governments that more Canadians actually voted against than voted for.  And dammit, if nobody else will do anything about it, facebook fans will!

Also, it shows that Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) really do believe that other Canadians are trustworthy.  Such a nice, Canadian, attitude!

*Except for things like changing the Constitution, and probably other stuff I can't think of right now, that require more than a simple majority of votes to do.  There is a complicated formula for constitutional change up here, but 50%-plus-one won't do it.  Trust me, you don't want to know.

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