The First Thanksgiving(s)


It is so frickin’ COLD! Literally ordered a new (North Face) coat online this week.

Anyway, Here’s what I’ve been doing besides turning into an icicle (annecicle): 

Last week, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from home…or should I say ThanksgivingS, because we did it big and had three of them.

First, on Sunday, there was a potluck hosted by a friend in Lille. All of the traditional Thanksgiving foods made an appearance, including pumpkin pie with good old American canned pumpkin! My love affair with sweet potatoes began when I was a baby (it was my favorite treat when I was toothless), and our sweet potato chef did them justice. Two friends and I were responsible for the turkey, and the “alternative” recipe we picked out (because it’s hard to find whole turkeys to roast in France) turned into the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. The ambiance, created via numerous American Flag displays (see Dana’s post on patriotism…and for some cute pictures) and “traditional Thanksgiving music” (Turkey in the Straw) was a complement to a wonderful day giving thanks for friends. 

The day of Thanksgiving dawned weirdly — because I had to get up at the crack of dawn to go to school. I hadn’t realized how ingrained “Thanksgiving Break” was into my yearly routine until having to work caused some major cognitive dissonance. I wrote “Happy Thanksgiving” on some of the classroom whiteboards and tried to explain its significance…but my discovery was that it’s difficult to explain what a holiday “means.” For instance, Thanksgiving is technically a celebration of a peace between the pilgrims and Native Americans, but considering that it was followed by years of discord and massacre it can’t really be a “celebration” of that in my mind. I think it has become more symbolic — it’s a holiday of gratitude, of family and friends, of taking a break to appreciate the things we have. It’s like pre-Christmas.

After school on Thursday, I shopped and cooked and headed over to Thanksgiving #2, at a friend’s house in Val. It was larger and even more internationally influenced than the previous one — we had Costa Rican tuna salad, Chinese fried rice & tea eggs, and a host of other culinary treats, brought by people from all over the world. This is the true beauty of Thanksgiving Abroad: it is necessarily a cultural exchange. I explained to a German person and two South American people, in French, the story behind the holiday… obviously not something I’d ever have had to do at home. Our British friend did a lovely performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to round out the evening, to which other British friends responded by putting on “God Save the Queen,” beginning a musical Revolutionary War… 

The third Thanksgiving was quite a party, and it was a fitting climax to the week of celebrations. I can safely say that Thanksgiving this year was more patriotic, intercultural, drawn out, reflective, and definitely more of a party than it ever has been…and I hope to experience it abroad again someday.

And now, we can officially start setting up for Christmas! Lille already has 🙂



The First Thanksgiving(s)

2 thoughts on “The First Thanksgiving(s)

  1. 1.
    2. I had the same trouble trying to explain Thanksgiving to my French students in Auch and like you, ended up sidestepping the historical beginnings of the holiday and explaining it as a day when we “apprécions bien” and are “reconnaissant de” the important things in our lives.
    3. Glad you had so many lovely celebrations!

  2. Ashley says:

    Canadian Thanksgiving was so long ago I feel as though I didn’t celebrate it as well as my fellow Americans abroad! I’ll have to use your examples for next year’s Thanksgiving.

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