Sunday, November 30, 2014

Expat Thanksgivings are often not on Thanksgiving

Carving a turkey for Thanksgiving

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is not  << NEWSFLASH >> celebrated in the rest of the world. No surprise there, of course.

If you're an American expat who wants to celebrate Thanksgiving, you need to choose: try to observe the holiday on its intended day (the last Thursday of November), or wait a few days until the weekend. You won't get two days off from work for Thanksgiving. Do you try to make a full observance, with a four day weekend? Just try to squeeze it in on Thursday evening after work? Pretend the holiday is on Saturday or Sunday?

Last year, we celebrated with some friends/neighbors/students on Thursday evening, and again on Friday. It wasn't quite a winner for me.

This year, following the lead of many other expats around the world, we decided to wait until Saturday to celebrate. Just the three of us. Nothing unique. But a classic day of cooking, football (college instead of NFL), and family. We spent our Thursday evening out to dinner with a couple of friends and raised a glass in honor of the holiday, while otherwise letting the day go by as normal.

Seasoning the turkey
Pantsless seasoning, 'cause that's how we roll.
So while last Thursday our Facebook newsfeeds were chock full of photos of celebration, we couldn't quite join in. Cue twinges of envy. And then when we observed Thanksgiving on our own in this foreign land, it felt a wee bit forced.

It's a trade-off for expats. We lose out on some holidays and traditions from home. As recompense, we can gain new ones — but they don't quite feel truly ours.

How much to hold onto our native culture, and how much to forgo, is an open question for us. What do you think? Better to import the old traditions? Or set them free and (awkwardly) adopt new holidays that don't have the same resonance?

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