Celebrating Thanksgiving away from home has, for better or for worse, become the only way for me to do it.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. There are no gifts to worry about, no religious traditions to observe or break… just family and food. For several years before I emigrated from the U.S. to get married, Thanksgiving was always hosted at my place, and I loved cooking for a crowd. Now, while I enjoy the experience of learning to make my way in a culture other than my own, at the holidays—Thanksgiving, especially—I can get pretty homesick. So my friends and I have found ways to celebrate Thanksgiving. And while we can’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of the big football game on TV, we still do a pretty good job of celebrating Thanksgiving far from home.
If you’re an expatriate living abroad, like me, or you’re just traveling out of the country at Thanksgiving, there are a few different ways to celebrate Thanksgiving far from home, without feeling like you’re missing out on a favorite holiday:
Cook for a crowd: I’ve cooked Thanksgiving for my Italian family three times now, and I’ve found that cooking for 20 or 25 isn’t that much harder than cooking the meal for 8 or 10—it’s just more helpings of the same dishes. So I go big, and I enlist a lot of help. On a lot of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, I have to improvise with what’s available. But my extended family of in-laws are always curious about our dishes and traditions, and it’s a pleasure to share the meaning of Thanksgiving with them.
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Organize a potluck: At your house or someone else’s gather a few of your American friends and put together a Thanksgiving potluck. The host is in charge of the turkey, and all other guests are charged with bringing the essential side-dishes and dessert. It’s a fun, festive way to celebrate, and make sure you all divvy up the leftovers!
Look for a restaurant hosting Thanksgiving: In larger international cities with a sizeable population of American expats and tourists, savvy restaurants will organize Thanksgiving dinners. No, they might not get the gravy or stuffing just right—I went to one such dinner where mashed purple sweet potatoes were served!—but there will still be enough familiar tastes that you won’t feel you’re missing out.
Host a restaurant dinner: Just because no restaurant in your town is offering a Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean they won’t if asked. Most restaurants will be happy to host a crowd, attract new customers and test out new dishes. You need to plan a month or two in advance, invite as many people as possible and confirm with the restaurant in plenty of time for the cooks to go shopping.