For myself and a lot of Americans, Thanksgiving is a much bigger family holiday than Christmas.
This sentiment was not noticed until I started living in England where there is obviously no real celebration of Thanksgiving. Christmas in the UK is the major holiday and the month of December is full of many parties leading up to the event.
My view is different.
When working in the American corporate world, a week off of work is rare. Since I saw travel as an important life experience, I always used that week accordingly.
Thanksgiving, however, is a long weekend meant for families. You spend the day cooking real food, relaxing with your biological or adoptive family and trying to remind yourself of all you have to be grateful for.
Thanksgiving is the underdog. So much more wholesome than it’s greedy expensive sibling, Christmas.
When you are living abroad, things shift. Sure the grocery stores stock American food items including cans of french fried onions for your green bean casserole and free range turkeys, but you don’t get the day off work and the people around you don’t understand the holiday in its entirety.
Last year in London I decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner at my home. I had a friend visiting from the US who had brought along a friend of hers and a few other American and non American friends to invite over.
I envisioned a day full of cooking and sipping wine followed by lively conversation around the gorgeous dinner table in our conservatory. I spent time sourcing ingredients and pre-ordered my groceries online.
And then things just fell apart.
The girls staying with me had a massive fight the night before, leaving one of them missing until the next morning and when she did reappear they were not speaking.
My groceries were late. Really late. Which left me late to put the turkey in.
People’s schedules got delayed and I spent the day cooking alone with two house guests who were in a sour mood.
And as the weather was changing, the nights getting longer, people were more and more fatigued. Dragging their bones from across London to my house after a long day of work to have a few bites of turkey and leave.
So much preparation, and then it was over. The guests had given it their all, considering the situation. My expectations obviously needed to be adjusted.
I had made sure there were plenty of leftovers to take home, but few obliged. As I don’t eat turkey, there were to be turkey sandwiches for my husband for weeks to come.
“I tried to get a small one,” I reasoned.
“Next year can we just get a small chicken or a ham?” he asked.
“You’re lucky it wasn’t a tofurkey,” I answered.
So this year, we have done a major oops. Without the constant reminder that it is around the corner, we have made other irreversible plans that do not involve traditional Thanksgiving activities.
Maybe it will be better this way. We can celebrate the following Saturday. Gather together the few Americans we know across the island of Singapore and cook a turkey on our primitive gas fired camping stove that acts as our primary cooking device.
Or perhaps its time to redefine Thanksgiving and make it work for us. Afterall, the Australians spend Christmas having a BBQ on the beach. Maybe we trade in the warm cider and oven baked turkey for corn on the cob and champagne. Adapt. New traditions are all in the making.