On Thanksgiving Abroad

Stockholm

If you are in America right now, you’re likely giddy over the glorious four-day weekend ahead.  If you’re anywhere else, you’re halfway through the week.  If you’re in my shoes, you’re getting ready to celebrate your final Thanksgiving abroad of university by preparing a presentation on Boccaccio.

No, please don’t say you’re sorry that I have a presentation on Thanksgiving.  There’s no way in which I would rather celebrate my fourth Thanksgiving abroad.

My family never celebrated the holiday in an ordinary way.  Except for the obligatory viewing of the parade in the morning, it differed in nearly every manner from the American standard.  There were no typical thanksgiving foods, little travel, few people sitting around the holiday lunch table.  Waking up on Thanksgiving these past few years, I do miss sitting in front of the television with a cup of tea, but thanks to the magic YouTube, I can craft my own parade.

Thanksgiving is the best holiday to celebrate abroad because it makes you truly thankful for all the unique experiences that come with it.  I’m thankful for being able to have these four years abroad.  I’m thankful to have the opportunity to give a presentation on Boccaccio while my friends and family in the US are digging into a turkey … or more likely pumpkin pie.

Oxford Street Christmas

The New York Times ran an article last week about how to have a small scale Thanksgiving.  While their suggestions were mainly about how to make the food work — clearly a big bird won’t fly, for more than just the obvious reason — the spirit of the article struck me.  All too often society, the media, us, we all make it seem like Thanksgiving can only happen with a long guest list and a million dishes.  Pinterest is inundated with elaborate table decorations.  Blogs discuss how best to strategize your cooking.  Recipes are scaled to feed an army, not a table.  Thanksgiving has become a holiday reserved for those who are surrounded by more people than rode the Mayflower.  This article, however, proclaimed that you can have a happy Thanksgiving, no matter how big your party is.

This is the same holiday spirit that emerges abroad.  Gone are the days where you have to strategize your grocery shopping.  Gone are the days off and gone are the panics about black Friday.  Divorced from the commercialization that comes with the holiday, I’ve been free to discover what thanksgiving means to me.  Apparently it does mean something, something I certainly didn’t realize before living abroad.

Thanksgiving means the start of Christmas.  It means the announcement of joy that punctuates the holiday season.  It means thinking about your traditions and your life.  It is the beginning of reflecting on the past year and looking to the year ahead.  And, yeah, it’s an amusing way to help me appreciate being American, because despite how it might somehow seem, I really do like that country.

Americans, enjoy your holiday.  Everyone else, take a few moments to reflect on your family, your traditions and get into the holiday spirit.  Of course, if you need some help this video and this recipe should do the trick.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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