*The following is a guest post from Kendra Korte, an American living in Nottingham.
It is odd to celebrate Thanksgiving when you’re living outside the US. Many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods – a roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie – can be difficult to find. No one really understands what you’re celebrating, and why. And you never get the day off work.
My first Thanksgiving outside of the US was during a study abroad year in college. I was living with other Americans, so we didn’t have the necessity of explaining the holiday and the traditions before we ate. Those of us who didn’t have classes scheduled for that day stayed in to help prepare the feast; those of us who did have classes schedule thought about skipping them. One of our group had family visiting, and when you combined them with the few neighbours that we invited, we had about 25 people around the tables. We all provided at least one of our family’s traditional Thanksgiving foods, and it was hours before we left the table.
When I was teaching in central Europe, I used the day to teach my students about American traditions. We did activities based around the Pilgrims and Squanto, and planned our own Thanksgiving feast. I also, of course, made them all write about things that they were thankful for. With some classes, I had them make paper hand-turkeys (where you trace your hand on paper and then colour it in like a turkey) to decorate the classroom.
Thanksgiving usually fell at around the same time as parents’meetings, so finding time for a traditional Thanksgiving feast was a bit tricky. One of the schools gave a dinner for the staff, with approximations of traditional American Thanksgiving food – chicken instead of turkey, currants instead of cranberries. The American teachers gave a little speech at the beginning of the meal to explain to the non-Americans what the significance of Thanksgiving was.
The other school that I taught at didn’t do a group feast, and, because we had been so busy with parents’meetings, we didn’t have time to cook – so instead, we went to McDonald’s for “traditional” American food. Another year, we had just gotten boxes from home with instant mashed potatoes and Kraft macaroni and cheese in them, so we ate traditional American food – even if it wasn’t traditional Thanksgiving food – that year as well.
My memories of Thanksgiving are incredibly tied up with the food I eat. Even when I am not in the US for Thanksgiving, I try to eat something that reminds me of the US, and it’s best if it’s fairly close to the stereotypical Thanksgiving meal. I try to find roast turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberries, and pumpkin at the very least. I may not be able to watch the Lions play football or see The Ten Commandments on TV, but I can at least approximate the meal.
Kendra Korte is an American living in Nottingham. She writes about books at mendramarie.wordpress.com