How do American expats celebrate Thanksgiving abroad?
Some friends asked me this question so it provoked me to share some thoughts.
It has been a busy few days for me, all normal for this time of the year. As I grow older though, I have come to realize that us Americans tend to get wrapped up in ourselves, and I don’t mean as individuals, but as a Country. While it isn’t surprising to me, but it is kind of amazing when you think about how we are the melting pot of the Earth. Hence the quote we associate with the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
And so they did …. seeking that lamp by the golden door, the huddled masses have came to this country, bringing their tired, their poor, all looking for the life that we have been living since that first Thanksgiving in 1621. It was that year that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians broke bread together in celebration of the first successful harvest for the newly established colony. In 1621 it wasn’t an established holiday yet, that day of thanks and sharing a meal with others.
It would be many, many years later, in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln, amidst the Civil war, proclaimed a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” and that it would be celebrated the fourth Thursday of each November.
Now we are a country combined with a mixture of many nationalities, each coming from a history of different holidays celebrated in different ways. Yet, when us Americans travel to other lands, by choice, by deployment or by employment, and find ourselves there on a holiday like the traditional Thanksgiving, we almost expect our celebrations to exist there. And yet, they don’t.
Today, as this writer sits here, with my own Thanksgiving dinner started as I prepare for the gathering of my family and friends later, I wonder just how do we Americans that find ourselves in other countries celebrate this day today? We’ll dine on turkey that is stuffed with dressing, cranberry sauce that is jellied and out of a can, homemade chocolate pie and pumpkin pie, deviled eggs and more.
In other countries, will there be a turkey with all the fixings served around a large screen television with “the game” playing and the viewer cheering? Will there be families and friends gathered in prayer before breaking bread together in celebration of the freedom our forefathers came to America to find?
Chances are, an American in another country most likely will find themselves to be among those who don’t celebrate this day, well, because, they have no reason to celebrate it. It is a day of thanks for American’s freedom and thanks for the long winter the Pilgrims had survived.
For certain the British don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, it was their country the Pilgrims fled to find freedom of religion. Just as the Japanese don’t celebrate our Fourth of July or those of the Jewish faith don’t celebrate our Christmas.
So how do Americans celebrate our traditional American holidays when they find themselves in foreign countries on the holiday?
It seems like regardless where our men and women that are serving our country in the Military, they find a way to have the traditional meal, as the USO and its volunteers bring the American Thanksgiving tradition to them. What a pleasure it must be to have a little “taste of home” when thousands of miles away. What about other though?
While in Italy, they may very well feast on a turkey with all the trimmings and an Italian dish of pasta to go along with it, while those in Prague may find themselves sharing a dish of dumplings instead. In Korea they have their own day of Thanksgiving as they celebrate the full moon nearest the fall equinox, Chusok.
So with that bit of information about a Korean holiday, we realize that while other countries may not celebrate our Thanksgiving, many have their own holiday where they celebrate their own reason to be thankful. Thus, giving thanks to the Almighty does exist in other countries, even though each country has their own “Almighty” they thank. Are we polite and “when in Rome, do as the Romans”?
What we must realize today, as we family and friends gather together, the fourth Thursday of November, is food will connect us all, regardless of any challenges distance and time. You may find yourself in a land far away from your childhood home today. It may be a land that doesn’t recognize our US Presidential proclaimed holiday of Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the day in a fashion custom to where you are on this day.
If you find yourself in India on July 4th, it will be just another day in India. No cook-outs and fireworks that day. However on August 15th, you will find yourself in the midst of their Independence Day celebrations. Find yourself in Canada, you may luck out and celebrate two Thanksgivings as there are almost as many Americans living there as there are Canadians and so there are two celebrations.
Then as an American who may find yourself abroad in an American holiday such as Thanksgiving, you can invite the friends you have made there, no matter where they may be from, and share our traditional Thanksgiving dinner with them. Whether they are British, Canadian, Indian or from Malaysia or Japan, good food, friends and fun can be worldwide.
The areas of the world where the traditional foods may not be found, each person can contribute to the meal with a dish of their land. Thus, Americans can still take the fourth Thursday in November with us anywhere and share our thanks with those we are with, because no matter where we find ourselves today, we have much to be thankful for.
Telling is sharing…So, how do you celebrate Thanksgiving abroad?