Celebrating American Thanksgiving Abroad

Thanksgiving is upon us. Every November, the shrill gobbling of the turkey beckons Americans the world over. But for those of us living in another country, nothing makes us feel quite so homesick as American Thanksgiving abroad.

Like many countries, Canada has its own Thanksgiving. It’s in October. But believe me when I tell you it’s not the same. It happens over a 3-day weekend and Canadians usually choose which day to have their holiday dinner. Imagine my shock that first year when I witnessed my wife and her family negotiating what day to do Thanksgiving.

So fellow expats, how can we cope with this annual longing to celebrate the holiday? Well, here’s how I tried to adjust and keep the Thanksgiving blues at bay.

Celebrate American Thanksgiving abroad…but with a twist

Sometimes, if you can’t keep a tradition alive, make a new one! This is what my family and I chose to do. Unfortunately, what Americans call Thanksgiving, Canadians call a workday. So, we decided to celebrate on the Saturday after and called it “Thanksgiving.” Now please understand, we pronounce it “Quote Unquote Thanksgiving.” We have my wife’s family over and after dinner all the kids decorate the Christmas tree. It’s quite lovely.

This year will be our fourth Quote Unquote Thanksgiving.

Celebrate American Thanksgiving abroad with fellow expats

Misery loves company, so why not celebrate Thanksgiving with your fellow Americans? This is how I celebrated my first Thanksgiving abroad. An expat friend of mine invited us over of dinner. They decorated the house with a Fourth-of-July level of patriotic decorations as we all ate, laughed, and sang the night away.

Note: I remember seeing all those Canadians sit through our tone-deaf rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. It told me all I needed to know about their tremendous patience and humility. Thank you, Canada.

Celebrate American Thanksgiving by buying stuff

These days, Black-Friday has become synonymous with Thanksgiving. Thankfully, greed has meant that even businesses on this side of the border want to get in on the turkey-gravy train. And with online shopping, it’s easier than ever to celebrate the holiday shopping season.

When I lived in the US, I wasn’t all that interested in Black-Friday shopping. Once I came to Canada however, I found myself pouring over flyers and online websites advertising the best deals. I know this all makes me sound sadly materialistic, but I can’t deny how it helped draw my mind away from the depression.

A final thought

I wish I could say that talking to friends and family back in the United States helps me feel better, but it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to them and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. But doing so also reminds me that I’m not there. When I talk to them, I feel like I can smell the savory aroma of the turkey as someone carves it up. Hear silverware clinking against plates as they scrape up the last bits of cornbread dressing. Taste the satisfying richness of the sweet potato…

Ok, now I’m just hungry.

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