How A South Pacific Island Celebrates Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday. And on tiny Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, it's a somewhat imported holiday.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When President Obama pardoned a turkey at the White House yesterday, he said this about Thanksgiving.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, this is a quintessentially American holiday.

SHAPIRO: Well, the people of Norfolk Island in the South Pacific would like to disagree.

TOM LLOYD: Yeah. You haven't got Thanksgiving Day to yourself in the U.S. of A.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: That's Tom Lloyd, a Norfolk Islander who has celebrated a lifetime of Thanksgivings there, and he's not alone.

LLOYD: It's one of the biggest days on Norfolk Island.

SHAPIRO: OK. Let's back up a second. First, you may be wondering, where is Norfolk Island, exactly?

LLOYD: Stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, really.

SHAPIRO: Well, officially, it's an Australian territory. Unofficially, it's barely a dot on a map of the Pacific Ocean, sitting between Australia and New Zealand. It was a British penal colony in the 19th century. And Tom Lloyd says American whaling ships back then made it a frequent port of call.

LLOYD: They brought many American recipes, like cornbread and pumpkin pies.

SHAPIRO: Those fit in well with the English harvest festival celebrated on the island. One American in particular, named Isaac Robinson, blended in the American traditions of a Thanksgiving feast and decorations. Lloyd says today you can see how that's taken root inside Norfolk Island's many churches - but on the last Wednesday in November, not Thursday.

LLOYD: The pews are decorated with stalks of corn and all the vegetables.

SHAPIRO: Since turkeys are hard to come by in the South Pacific, Lloyd says Norfolk Islanders feast on Thanksgiving roast pork, chickens, and bananas.

LLOYD: Yes, we have a lot of banana dishes. You know, we have banana pilaf(ph), which is a type of baked bananas in a bread form, and green bananas cooked in cream and dried bananas.

SHAPIRO: Lloyd says some of those banana dishes are an acquired Thanksgiving taste. Whether your dinner table has mashed potatoes or mashed bananas, he sends his holiday greetings across the Pacific.

LLOYD: Wherever you are in America, have a wonderful, wonderful day, because we had a wonderful day on Wednesday. And God bless.

SHAPIRO: Right back at you, Norfolk Island.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THANKSGIVING PRAYER")

JOHNNY CASH: (Singing) Thanksgiving Day for the rest of my life, I'm thankin' the Lord he made you.

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