“Happy Thanksgiving!” my American friend and I happily exclaimed to each other on the streets of Northern France this past Sunday, as we arrived with a Kiwi and two French people in tow.
As we entered the hosting house, I couldn’t help but both smile and appreciate the numerous chains of American flags my friend had hung throughout the hallways and living room in the spirit of the holiday. Before this year, I had never really thought of Thanksgiving as a patriotic holiday. But quite frankly, there is something unexpectedly patriotic about celebrating Thanksgiving while living abroad, and I was proud of the fact that so many of us were able to come together and plan something special for the holiday.
This is the third Thanksgiving that I have not celebrated with immediate family at home in Wisconsin. Although I cherish the Thanksgivings spent with family, my favorite Thanksgivings have been those I’ve spent abroad.
My first Thanksgiving wasn’t abroad, but it was on the opposite side of the country, in 2004, when I marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. My friends and I spent Thanksgiving with the rest of the 181-member marching band at our hotel just outside Manhattan, post-parade of course.
Start at 48:02 to see our performance
The second time I spent Thanksgiving away from home was in 2013, when I was an assistant in Toulon.
This year was my third Thanksgiving away from home. Although the vast majority of our Thanksgiving guests were not American, I definitely felt the presence and fidelity of American tradition and culture. Everyone, American or not, volunteered to either bring a dish typically served at American Thanksgiving, or a dish represented in either French or their own cultures. More importantly, everyone tried their best to really understand the importance behind Thanksgiving, and its unique place in our culture. Overall, everyone worked together with the limited resources we had (some ingredients such as cranberry sauce, cool whip, turkey, and pumpkin can be hard to find in France, although I managed to order everything online at My American Market) to pull off amazing meals. Celebrating Thanksgiving in France has given my new fellow American-expat friends and me the chance to intertwine our own families’ traditions and recipes from around the country, as well as share authentic American culture with our international friends.
The main course
The dessert course
I am so thankful for my friends and my expat life in France. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, everywhere!