Last year, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving after moving overseas. It almost didn’t occur to me until a week or so before the holiday festivities that my English neighbors would probably not be celebrating, too. When that did finally sink in, I found myself almost feeling a little bit of seasonal depression. Could we still celebrate Thanksgiving overseas and make things feel “just right” if turkeys and cornucopias weren’t on display in shops and I couldn’t find the marshmallows for sweet potatoes?
Thankfully, the answer was yes. After a semi-successful attempt at making it right my first year, I now know the secrets to celebrating Thanksgiving while overseas.
Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time.
If you live in an area with butchers or smaller shops, start looking for a turkey early. If you have a small freezer, or none at all, be sure to reserve your turkey and potentially ask them to hold it for you until the day before Thanksgiving. In addition, plan out your whole Thanksgiving menu at least two weeks before the holiday, and ask for help locating those difficult to find products. In England, it was hard to find marshmallows until closer to Christmas, and you should have seen the looks on faces when I suggested that I planned to put them on top of sweet potatoes! To make your Thanksgiving dinner successful, plan ahead.
Decorate the house and the table.
I’ve never been one to put out Thanksgiving decorations, but in fact, many foreign countries do decorate for the harvest once autumn arrives. So, putting out a cornucopia on the table and pumpkins in your front window might not even seem that weird to your local neighbors and friends. In addition, it might help the season seem more in line with your family traditions.
Invite friends and neighbors over to celebrate.
Of course, if you know Americans living near you, inviting them over to celebrate may seem like the obvious choice. However, it may not occur to you to invite neighbors that aren’t Americans over, too. This opportunity to share your own culture and traditions with your local friends should not be missed. After all, Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks. I know I am thankful for my friends and neighbors overseas, regardless of their nationality. They make this “home” for me.
Do something local on Thanksgiving Day.
One final suggestion is to appreciate where you are living on Thanksgiving. If you are lucky enough to have the day off or are able to take the day off, you will find that many local attractions and sites will be empty, as this isn’t a national holiday in a foreign country. We walked around nearby Fountains Abbey last year, and really appreciated and were thankful for this opportunity to live abroad.
If you have been blessed with the opportunity to live overseas, don’t feel that you’re no longer able to keep your American traditions. Celebrating Thanksgiving overseas can and should be done. With a little planning, it can be the best one you’ve ever had.