Tag Archives: St. Paul’s Cathedral

Thanksgiving in London

Thanksgiving Day is one of America’s most celebrated holidays, and one I look forward to every November. We Americans have an uncanny homing instinct this time of year, when people travel an average distance of over 200 miles over the hills and through the woods to be with family and loved ones. For an ex-pat like me, it can be a day tinged with homesickness. Luckily, the American community in London has a tradition of gathering at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Thanksgiving Day Service.

St Pauls Old Red Double decker bus London

St Pauls Cathedral Statue facade London

An American Bald Eagle above the altar in the American Memorial Chapel

An American Bald Eagle above the altar in the American Memorial Chapel

St Pauls Cathedral Steps Front

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St Pauls Cathedral Thanksgiving Service Inside

St Pauls Cathedral Thanksgiving Program

The US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, addressed the congregation and read out the President’s Proclamation. He spoke of the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Then we all sang America, the Beautiful accompanied by the Combined Choirs of the American Congregations in London and I was flooded with a big dose of the warm-fuzzies.

1 Thanksgiving St Pauls Ambassador Barzun delivers his address

Thanksgiving Service St Pauls Choir

St Pauls Cathedral Front Steps London

St Pauls Cathedral Front Steps

After church, it was home to roast the turkey and make those last-minute adjustments to the Thanksgiving table before the guests arrived.

Thanksgiving Table COffee Table Champagne Bucket Glasses Nibbles

Thanksgiving Table Floral Centerpieces Ajusting

For my Thanksgiving table centerpieces this year, I used bouquets of blue thistles, hypericum berries and sprigs of green bell. I love the architectural beauty and the periwinkle grey color of the thistle blooms.

Thanksgiving Table Flowers Centerpieces

Thanksgiving Table Flower Centerpiece

Thanksgiving Table Place

I had some extra sprigs of berries, so I tucked them into the napkins to make the place settings a bit more festive.

Thanksgiving Table Place Setting

Love these adorable baby squash I picked up at Daylesford to accent the table.

Love these adorable baby squash I picked up at Daylesford to accent the table.

Thanksgiving Table Prepping

Thanksgiving Table View

Thanksgiving Table Place Cards

With the candles lit and everyone excitedly gathered round the table, it was time to feast!

Thanksgiving Table Sitting Down

Thanksgiving Table sitting down end

Tuscan kale salad with quinoa, red onion, pomegranate seeds and pistachios

Tuscan kale salad with quinoa, red onion, pomegranate seeds and pistachios

Sweet potato and sage gratin with parmesan breadcrumbs

Sweet potato and sage gratin with parmesan breadcrumbs

Thanksgiving Menu Stuffing

Thanksgiving Menu Turkey Carving

Thanksgiving TABLE Laughs BW

Thanksgiving Table Smiles

Thanksgiving Table Wine

Thanksgiving Table People Smiles

There have been so many wonderful things happen this year. As dictated by tradition, we went round the table with each person sharing just a few words about what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving. There were some teary eyes, a few excited whoops, and lots and lots of laughs.

Thanksgiving Table Laughts

Thanksgiving Table People Talk

Thanksgiving Table Cheek Kiss

Before we knew it our plates had been cleared, and it was time for dessert. Two American behemoths – a beautiful latticed apple pie made by Maria, and a traditional spiced pumpkin pie I whipped up (with a slightly burnt crust – oops!)

Thanksgiving Table Menu Apple Pie

Thanksgiving Menu Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving Menu Pumpkin Pie Cutting

Thanksgiving People Cheeky Look

By the end of the meal, we were all feeling the love – and the silliness!

Thanksgiving People Peace

Thanksgiving People Girls Wining

Thanksgiving People Girls Talking

Thanksgiving People GIrls Laugh

Thanksgiving People Girls

thanksgiving Forehead kiss

As the Christmas season kicks off, and we will soon be consumed with the worry of what to give (and what we will get), Thanksgiving is an opportune moment to simply appreciate what we already have.

Thanksgiving Night Friends

I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends to stand in for family when I can’t be home for the holidays. A wonderful evening, keeping our home traditions alive!

A State Funeral

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Back when I was living in Washington, DC I used to be quite political. Working for a national museum, hosting visiting foreign dignitaries, attending embassy events with ambassadors and diplomats it was hard not to be. Though I suppose I was already political before that, raised by parents with totally differing political opinions. Before I ever formed by own world view or any kind of political awareness, I was keenly aware of politics being a frequent (and often emotionally-charged) topic of debate.

These days, I try to keep my head out of politics. I find it a complete bummer. Plus, I’m a guest in a foreign country and always cognizant of polarized international opinion about my country. When it comes to English politics, it’s really not my place to have an opinion. I can see firsthand the pros and cons, just like everyone else. Today was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and it was blatantly obvious that she was a divisive figure in British history.

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Here’s what I know about Margaret Thatcher: she was the first woman Prime Minister. Which indicates to me she was extremely ambitious, probably a bit stubborn, and exceptionally thick-skinned – a lot like me actually (except for the thick-skinned bit). I always saw her as Ronald Reagan’s droopy-eyed galpal during an era of austerity economics and neoliberal capitalism. I remember during the zenith of the MTV age her cameo in Genesis’ music video for ‘Land of Confusion’ – a sinister, grotesque puppet in a political nightmare.

When I moved to London, her speeches were played on a loop in the toilets at Maggie’s – an 80’s themed boutique nightclub in the heart of Chelsea; it was as if no one really listens to what she said, it was that voice, the way she said things. She’s on record as calling Nelson Mandela “a terrorist,” so she was obviously a bit impulsive… better make that unapologetically impulsive. But aren’t all politicians? And what’s any worse about her administration than the one Britain has now? Privatizations still continue under the current coalition government, and foreign policy remains very conservative and reactionary – so her legacy isn’t truly dead at all in terms of what is going on in Britain today.

Fortified by a strong cup of coffee, I nudged my way through the crowds at St. Paul’s to witness the state ceremony.

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Media networks staked out their territory in the churchyard.

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On guard for the Queen’s arrival.

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The Queen and Prince Phillip arriving.

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Queen Elizabeth ascending the stairs into St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Baroness Thatcher’s horse-drawn casket arriving.

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The band leading the procession was playing the most sombre marching tune. I caught my breath a couple of times.

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At exactly 11:00 the church bells began to clang solemnly as the coffin was carried up the cathedral steps.

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The atmosphere was so silent you could hear the wind moving, there was a palpable tension in the air.

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Inside, foreign leaders, royalty, and those close to Baroness Thatcher would witness the funeral ceremony. It was sure to be memorable as the procession and arrival had all the hallmarks of practiced and perfected pomp & circumstance – what the Brits do best.