I have been overseas for twelve years and I have not yet missed a Thanksgiving celebration. Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving– you don’t mess with it.
It doesn’t matter if you live in the Dominican Republic when Thanksgiving rolls around. If you do, you might help collaborate on a traditional Southern Thanksgiving feast, pear salad and all. You might invite everyone you know to come and help eat the turkey, green bean casserole, broccoli salad, stuffing, cranberry sauce (from a can), gravy, and sweet potato casserole with ooey-gooey marshmallows on top.
|Blue Moon in Cabaret, DR|
The next year that you live in the DR, you might drive up to a resort and eat Indian food in an open hut, sitting on the floor, surrounded by the amazing sounds of nature at night. Someone might cook that food for you on a grill in your hut. You might get to lie down at the table when you get too full.
If you live in Kuwait during Thanksgiving, you won’t get any days off because, at the time, the Kuwaiti weekend was Thursday and Friday. It was a bummer that you couldn’t have at least one extra day to celebrate, but you would still be able to celebrate on the day. And there might be a lot of Americans around, Southern and otherwise, who would contribute to a feast that filled up an apartment so that all the eating tables had to be set up in the hallway. Someone might lead you in prayer, a prayer that was so genuine and so heartfelt that you missed home and your grandmother.
If you live in Shanghai during Thanksgiving, you probably won’t get the day off, so someone could possibly record whatever ‘the’ football game is and you might show up at the school, which has a projector, and eat in the foyer while you watch the game. It might be the first time Thanksgiving has felt real in a few years because it’s cold and men are swearing at the TV screen. The food won’t be so traditional and there won’t be any pumpkin pie, but it’ll still feel really nice to be celebrating with your expat family.
In Guatemala, you might spend a year with just your husband and your new baby. You might cook a small turkey and a few of the fixin’s and it could be enough to just be quiet for a while. One year you might go to Irtra and splash around in a water park with new friends, eating nothing traditional but having a blast all the same.
Should you live in Bahrain, you might sign up on a Google Doc for what dish you’ll bring and show up at a friend’s house with said dish. It will still be pretty warm outside and kids will be running in and out of the open door, yours included. There might be tables and chairs borrowed from the school and a whole bunch of people stuffed into a normally quite big house. There will be laughter and music and delicious food from around the globe. And you might stuff yourself on your own green bean casserole because it’s the first time you’ve found French’s fried onions in years.
And every Thanksgiving, you’ll miss being home with your own family. You’ll wish you were sitting around the kid’s table with your cousins and sister, eating turkey or ham, mashed potatoes and, if someone was loving you that year, cheesy pasta. Aunt C’s pineapple casserole would be gone- mostly eaten by you. The TV would be on in the background and candles glowing on the mantel and it would just be home.
But this community is a new kind of home. And, on Thanksgiving, everyone you’re with feels like family.