This was the second time in my life I have spent Thanksgiving away from family. The first time was in 2004 when I marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and I spent Thanksgiving in NYC with 199 other people, including my best friends from high school. It was a great experience and a great Thanksgiving. The second time was this year, where I am lucky enough to have spent the All-American holiday with both new and old friends here in the south of France. Even better: I had TWO Thanksgiving dinners. On Thursday, aka Thanksgiving Day, a fellow American assistant organized Thanksgiving dinner– she ordered a Turkey and cranberry sauce from an American store online (these items are especially hard to find in France) and the rest of us divided up the rest of the meal (I made enough mashed potatoes to feed a small army!) Because most of us worked on Thursday and the French eat late, we all gathered for dinner around 7:30 PM, and sat down around 8:30 to eat. Our friend was even able to stream the Green Bay game via his laptop (ouch, btw) so it felt even more authentic. The best part of the meal was having everyone go around and say what they were thankful for, and then listening to Chris give an extremely heartwarming speech. It made me feel so sentimental and so lucky to have developed special friendships and bonds with such special people, and we were all able to come together as expats to celebrate such an important part of our culture. It was such a special night, and some of the non-Americans got to experience their first Thanksgiving (and food comas).
On Saturday afternoon, I made my way to the village of Peynier, which is about thirty minutes from Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, where I would be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family friend, Jeff, who was born and raised in Cudahy, Wisconsin! His parents and my grandparents are best friends, so our families have interacted over the years. Jeff was like me- he loved France and after studying there in college, came back and found a way to stay (obtaining a visa was so much easier twenty years ago.) Now, he lives in the south of France with his Sicilian wife and two French/Italian/American kids. It was such a treat to spend the weekend with them! The village of Peynier is teeny tiny, and I spent the afternoon exploring with 5-year-old Léo and helping Jeff bake. I also just enjoyed sitting next to their fire place in an actual living room. That evening, the five of us made our way down the road to their friend Kelly’s house, who is coincidentally also an American (from Tampa) living in the same village with a French husband and two boys. The two families celebrate Thanksgiving every year at Kelly’s house together. So, when I walked into Kelly’s house, I immediately felt like I was back in the states – the house is just SO American, with two gigantic plasma screens mounted in the kitchen and family room streaming American football, a roaring fire, Ranch dressing, an actual bar in the living room, and Christmas lights on the house! We spent the evening eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company. All of us spoke in French, even though it was the native language of only two of the ten adults present that evening. I think I ate more in the past weekend than I have since I attended Sarah and Aldric’s wedding back in September!
To my American readers- I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got lots of great Black Friday deals (if that’s your thing!) I cannot believe its December!