Thanksgiving Abroad

If I were in the United States at this time of year I’d be spending this week curled up in my parent’s living room, spending time with my friends and family, and helping (or hindering) my parents as they prepare for the event of the month: Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving in the United States, despite its problematic background, is a time for families to come together, share thanks, and eat copious amounts of food. While I don’t have a large family outside of my parents and brother, I have grown up using this holiday as a time to reconnect with friends new and old, and now that I’ve moved halfway across the country for college that time is even more important to me. However, this year is different. Instead of traveling from Denver to Vermont for Thanksgiving, I’ll be spending the week in Aix en Provence!

While it can be hard to be away from my family home on Thanksgiving, I’m lucky to be able to have my family visit me during the holiday week. My mom, dad, and brother all arrived on Monday to spend the holiday with me and my friends, bringing a piece of the holiday to me! While they spent much of their week here taking in France and enjoying their holiday, their visit for me was about connecting with and spending time with my family. Rather than a turkey dinner complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and typical Thanksgiving side dishes, my family enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner of steak tartare, escargot, and charcuterie…. maybe not traditional, but certainly no complaints.

Although my 2022 Thanksgiving experience was a far cry from the typical American Thanksgiving, it could only be considered more special for it being celebrated in France and still surrounded by the people I love the most. However, holidays abroad can be challenging for many reasons, and there were still many things to miss about the classic American experience.

Although I had my family with me, this was the first time in a decade that I had not celebrated Thanksgiving with my close family friends. Since leaving for college, spending time with the people closest to me has become rarer and rarer. Missing one of the only times of year that we can all be together makes the distance feel farther, and I’m sure many other students abroad are feeling the same thing. Not being in your family home for a holiday can increase feelings of homesickness, especially so late in the semester.

No matter how you spent your Thanksgiving this year, whether it was home or abroad, with family or friends, eating turkey or not, it is a time to be grateful for the good that we have. This year I’m grateful for my family, my friends (near or far), and especially for this amazing experience that I will never forget. With that, I wish you all the happiest Thanksgiving and start to the holiday season!


’Tis the Season

Happy Thanksgiving! I said that at least a fourth as much this year as I typically do in America. Why? Thanksgiving is not a holiday in the UK. It’s pretty obvious, but honestly, I completely forgot about it until after Halloween. I was surprised at how everyone was preparing for Christmas so early. Not just decorations but Christmas shopping deals and commercials were everywhere. Huge festivals and Christmas markets were opening in Glasgow and Edinburgh before Thanksgiving. There is a good portion of Americans that begin spreading Christmas cheer before Turkey Day, but when one of my professors made a project due on Thanksgiving day, I thought “the audacity?!” Finally, it dawned on me that the origins of Thanksgiving are rooted in America and have no significance anywhere else in the world. 

Even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the UK, it definitely has an influence. When talking to some strangers at a pub in London, they asked many questions about the November holiday. They asked what it was like feasting with your family and if we enjoyed the holiday. One guy even shared his experience about attending an “American Thanksgiving” a few years back. He thought it was really awesome and exciting which seemed so silly. Uber drivers and restaurant workers also enjoyed talking about the American holiday with us. Our American accents make us stand out from a crowd every time and it’s always fun to tell people we are from Colorado. They would ask the same questions about if the holiday was important and fun for us. I never thought I would explain Thanksgiving to other people and I never thought about living in a place where Thanksgiving is just some wild tale from a land far away.

We still made the day special by making baked potato soup from scratch in our crockpot. We had a small family dinner that consisted of myself, my best friend from DU, and her boyfriend who was visiting for the weekend from his abroad program in London. We played some board games and went to a pub after dinner for beer and to play pool. 

As someone who is very family-oriented, I found it very difficult to be away from my parents, grandparents, and brother for Thanksgiving. I called them before I went to sleep and they were just about to sit down at the dinner table. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Scotland, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss my brother’s cooking, football on the TV in the background, and making charcuterie boards with my Mom. 

The day after Thanksgiving we were supposed to spend the day in Ireland but due to our flight getting delayed the trip became impossible. We detoured and spent the day in Edinburgh at the Christmas Market. The Edinburgh Christmas Market is basically a festival with fair rides including a ferris wheel. They have tons of small shops set up in a farmers’ market style with many food vendors. The shops sell all sorts of things like jewelry, bath products, soaps, ornaments, signs, jackets/scarves/hats, Christmas decorations, pottery, kids’ toys, etc. I did some Christmas gift shopping and found some fun things for myself. The place was incredibly busy, but that makes sense for opening day. 

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Ferris Wheel at Edinburgh Christmas Market
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Edinburgh, Scotland
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Journal Shop at Edinburgh Christmas Markets
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Edinburgh Museum on the Mound

Overall, it was a great Thanksgiving weekend in Scotland. It may not be a national holiday in this country, but it still means a lot to me. It represents my roots, my family, and my holiday spirit. There was no turkey, stuffing, rolls, or mashed potatoes, but I felt just as content with our homemade soup, pool games, and adventures in Edinburgh.