Thanksgiving on the wrong side of the pond

23 11 2011

It’s Thanksgiving week and I am, once again, for yet another Thanksgiving, stuck in Europe. I came here after finishing my Master’s degree expecting to be away from the U.S. for one or two Thanksgivings. I have been away for nineteen, and counting.

Here in Europe, there is no such thing as Thanksgiving, and I must say it is the one day of the year I am physically sick with longing and blind with homesickness. And my European friends, all lovely people for whom I am eternally thankful, just don’t understand.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time because there are no expectations attached to it. There is no gift-giving and therefore no disappointment and no fake joy. The joy is (usually) real, and it’s all about just having a great meal together. Food that reminds me of where I come from and who I am. Food that reminds me of my good fortune in this life, so far. Comfort food.

When my father was still alive, he would come visit me at the end of the year. Every September we would have the same phone conversation – should he come at Thanksgiving? Or four weeks later, for Christmas? We always decided on Christmas because then he could hang around for New Year’s Eve too. And he loved being part of a traditional European Christmas over here… it reminded him of his childhood in Germany, a long time ago.

We would turn our Christmas dinner into an “end-of-year” dinner, so that we could celebrate all the holidays we had missed and the ones that were to come in the first part of the new year as well. The centerpiece of our culinary extravaganza was his Thanksgiving turkey. He had been the Master Of The Bird at home since as far back as I can remember, and was always eager to commandeer my mini-kitchen for a whole day, along with all of its tools and appliances.

I would pre-order the turkey from a local supermarket and he would directly import the stuffing and the cranberries in his suitcase.

The Bird, 2002 edition.

Since the amount of food on the table was usually far greater than the two of us could possibly consume in any useful period of time, and the standard European freezer is the size of a shoebox, I invited friends and colleagues over to partake in the gluttonous, succulent feast. Our rallying cry was always: “EAT MORE!” One year we had guests from six different countries, including Palestine, the U.K. and Germany, to name just a few. It was a real United Nations around the table in my little Berlin apartment.

Those were good times with my father, and old and new friends. Those evenings are past and long gone, now, but no one can take the memories away from us.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Be thankful, and eat well.



8 responses

23 11 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Evelynn! It doesn’t matter what age we are homesickness is something that affects us all on those days that hold special memories for us and our families. For me it’s New Year’s Eve in Scotland and the simple but special meal that we would all share after the bells. Even if I’m in the mountains having fun boarding being apart from family at that time of year really hurts. Thankfully this year we will all spend it together for the first time in 5 years. I’m thankful for the family I have been blessed with. I hope you have a great day, enjoy those memories 🙂

23 11 2011
Evelynn Starr

Thanks for your note, summerprimrose! And I wish you a wonderful time with your family… I can imagine you are pretty excited if this is the first year you get to celebrate together again after such a long time. Hope you make great new memories, to cherish a lifetime.

23 11 2011
Leanne Shirtliffe

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear. A beautiful post.

And I know too well what it’s like spending holidays away from a family who dines like Vikings, with lots of laughter and lots of food. Even though it’s not our Thanksgiving this week and even though I have a family of my own, it still isn’t always easy. Sigh…

23 11 2011
Evelynn Starr

Darling. I wish one day you all can join me at my Thanksgiving dinner.

24 11 2011
Rebecca Stanfel

What a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes.

I lived overseas for 2 years, so I have a sense of the adrift feeling that comes during holiday times. I hope you are able to mark the day anyway in a way that is meaningful to you.

I’ve also got to tell you that you helped me reframe Thanksgiving. I’ve never quite gotten the holiday. But I love how you point out that it’s a day without expectations. It’s about enjoyment. Wow. I like that.


24 11 2011
Evelynn Starr

Hey Rebecca, thank YOU. We don’t really have anything planned for today, sometimes I just feel like I want to pretend it’s not happening at all – to spare myself the sadness. It will be a spontaneous moment, whatever it will be.

24 11 2011

Thank-you my friend for sharing your memory. I am indeed thankful, and among that which I am thankful for is you and R and our memories…past and future. Happy Thanksgiving from you run of the mill American friends.

29 11 2011

I remember Thanksgiving away from home. I only missed two and people invited me over both times, but they made traditional English and German meals for me. I missed the stuffing.

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