Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Sneak Attack

And so came and went another Thanksgiving in Europe. The first time I spent Thanksgiving overseas was in 2001. My professor found a restaurant in Cannes that would serve a group of 17 American students turkey and mashed potatoes on what is just another Thursday in France. Next up was 2003 near St. Tropez, without a plate of stuffing in sight. Now it's Brussels 2009, where most of my colleagues are Americans, and where I had no shortage of invitations to join them in downing a full, traditional, over the top meal. It was a very happy Thanksgiving.

I think the strangest holidays to celebrate overseas are the ones that are uniquely American. July 4th and Thanksgiving are the biggies, with Halloween a distant third as it becomes more common abroad. But it's not really the day itself that is strange. That day is fine because you can make it what you want. Need to grill some burgers and hot dogs? There are a lot of places around the world where you can do just that. Need to find a whole turkey? It can be tricky, but you might pull it off. And if you can't get any of the traditional things, well, you can still use non-traditional substitutes and celebrate in spirit.

The real strangeness comes before the big day because there's absolutely no build-up to a holiday like Thanksgiving when you're not in the U.S. No paper turkeys and harvest scenes in store windows, no towers of canned cranberries and gravy mixes in the grocery store, no talk of Black Friday sales. Thanksgiving just magically appears one day and it gone without a trace the next. Did it even really happen? With holidays, as with many things in life, the anticipation is sometimes more exciting than the event itself. So, while there was no Thanksgiving anticipation for me this year, I did get to enjoy some delicious Belgian chocolates with my perfect slice of pumpkin pie. It doesn't make up for what I missed, but it doesn't hurt either.


Peggy said...

Glad you found a way to celebrate Thanksgiving outside of the United States!

Zhu said...

I remember, when I studied in China in 99, the Americans were the only ones making a big fuss because they were away from home for the 4th of July. The rest of us (French, Canadians... also have national days in the summer) couldn't care less!

They ended up being invited by their embassy to celebrate properly.

I found it strange at the time.

Tanya said...

@Zhu, probably because holidays in the U.S. are a huge deal. We go all out with planning and decorations and get really into it. Even if you're not into it, you're around people that are. So when you're suddenly away from all that excitement and hoopla, you miss it. Or something like that...