As an expat I am always learning the cultures and traditions of the country where I am living. Thanksgiving is one of the few times of year when North Americans get to shine. Thanksgiving is ours. This year none of my guests were American. It was enjoyable to share this tradition of being thankful for what we have followed by stuffing our face with food with our new Swiss and expat friends. My husband is British, which means I become the American Ambassador explaining the traditional dishes, the history behind Thanksgiving, and how people celebrate. If I get the facts wrong – no big deal. No one knows anyway, right? But in all seriousness, I am thankful to share this time with my family and guests. For me it is not about the day itself but the combination of the preparation, the food, and the quality family time. Whilst I am grateful everyday, it is nice to have one day set aside where we all acknowledge gratitude and spend quality time together.
Since having my own family, every year without fail despite where we lived, we celebrated Thanksgiving on the actual Thanksgiving Day. I thought it made me feel more connected to the holiday. Because we live outside of the U.S. all of our Thanksgiving dinners have been just that..a dinner. Usually starting at 7pm to allow friends and family enough time to get home from work and join us.
This year, however, I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving a few days early. We celebrated on the Sunday before. This just worked better with everyone’s schedule, including my own. For the first time in years, it actually felt like Thanksgiving. Everyone was home – no school runs, no work. We had the early start, the crazy morning stress of cleaning the house, preparing the side dishes, holiday music in the background and then the calm right before the guests arrived. It was amazing! The guests arrived at 2pm with the turkey being finished at 3:30 pm (due to my miscalculation of time and temperature). It didn’t matter. We had a wonderful afternoon filled with eating and socialising. The kids were all preoccupied with each other which allowed the adults time to relax and talk. We ate all day long. Stuffed bellies with long relaxing chats on the couch before dessert. It felt a bit like Thanksgiving in America.
Afterwards I was thinking about all the Thanksgivings we have had in the past years. It was always a mixed crew of Americans and other nationalities. All these years I have been trying to recreate what I thought it would be like at home. Always feeling a bit reminiscent of the holiday season back in America. But as I look back on all of my expat Thanksgivings, I do not have one dull memory. When you are an expat – your friends become your family. I have been blessed to spend Thanksgiving with so many different and wonderful people over the years. All this time I thought I was recreating what it would be like back home, and instead it has been better. Should I ever return back to the states, I am sure I will look back on all my expat Thanksgivings with a heavy but grateful heart.
I never expected to be celebrating Thanksgiving in Switzerland this year. As the date crept up, I was actually thinking about binning it this year. I don’t have any American friends yet so why bother? But as an expat it is important to teach our children some of the traditions of our home countries. I am glad we did it. It turned out much better than I could have anticipated. The truth is we don’t know what the future holds. We need to live in the present and enjoy what is around us. Whether you’re an expat or not, this holiday can get a bit hectic and manic but enjoy every moment. Who knows where you’ll be next year?