Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Living

The biggest, grandest, most traditional American holiday just passed us by - Thanksgiving.  For all non-Americans, it is mind baffling how this can be so important! Not only as a family get-together but the traditions and food of it all. There has to be this special stuffing on the table or that kind of sweet potato pie and there definitely needs to be a football game going on in the background to veg out in front of while digesting the turkey.

I have come to love Thanksgiving – after having left the United States. Not so much for the food, which can be comforty for sure, but for the nice atmosphere of hanging out with friends, cooking together, eating, drinking and eating some more… and I’m not the only non-American who has grown to appreciate this holiday. This is exactly the wonderful thing that expats around the world share – an appreciation for different holidays. And it’s not only because it is a reason to party…

Now for my American partner in cooking crime; Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of the year. It is an opportunity to spend time with good friends and enjoy traditional, familiar comfort food without the pressure of gifts or the chaos of most other holidays.  First, long hours are spent together in the kitchen and then, watching sports, going on walks to make room for dessert, playing games and just enjoying the company of loved ones.  And of course, giving thanks for the bounty before us and what is to come in the months and years ahead. 

This year the STARA team hosted Thanksgiving for friends from all around the world – China, Australia, Denmark, Spain, Austria, England and, of course, Sweden and the US. There were complete newbies alongside with seasoned Thanksgivingers who need it to just so, like it always is. With such a large number of guests a potluck was the way to go so that everyone feels like they are involved and creating their own traditions. There was one really big bird of course, potatoes of different kinds, stuffing (this was the year I actually liked it), cranberry sauce, side vegetables, gravy, at least three different desserts and definitely good times.

With so many from so many places, you can’t get too specific on what to bring – and that is part of the fun.  When Stacey lived in Switzerland, every year they went to a large Thanksgiving dinner – about 400 people.  Everyone was asked to bring a side dish.  The fun though was guessing where everyone came from by the dish they brought.  Those from the Southwest had cornbread and chorizo stuffing,  but if you are from New England, its wild rice and oysters all the way!  There are always stories about the history of the dish – an old family recipe from a great grandparent or mom’s famous sweet potato pie – something to remind us of those far away. 

But sharing these dishes and their stories always brings us closer together.  They remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  While we may not be with our “real” families on this holiday, we are with those who love us wherever we are - making new memories, traditions and stories to share next year.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!

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