I had no special plans to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. It is my favorite American holiday but what makes it special to me is sharing the tradition with friends and family. With mixed feelings I had decided to stay here this year as I had just seen my parents a few weeks ago and M.'s birthday is next week. Compounded with the fact that I will also stay here for Christmas for the short break we are getting this year, I was definitely having some bouts of classic ex-pat homesickness.

The more I thought about it the more I thought I should go for the next best thing - An American Thanksgiving in Germany. This raised all kinds of questions, among them, where to get a turkey, cranberries and canned pumpkin, how would we fit the turkey in our little European oven, who would eat all the food and would I feel better or worse for having this dinner?

We invited 10 of our closest friends in Munich for a Thanksgiving dinner today and they all showed up, ready to see what the fuss was all about. We spent yesterday shopping for all the ingredients. There were some compromises but for the most part I got what we needed. Our local butcher had arranged a turkey at M.'s request and the Saturday morning crowd was giggling as they handed us the 16 pound bird, legs and wings bouncing around, unsecured, in a big plastic bag. Just in case we didn't know, he told us that most people were ordering their birds for Wednesday.

We gave up on pumpkin pie and a couple of appetizers. I felt particulary sad about the pie - this is always my favorite part of the meal and my family would never have the meal without it. We settled on an apple pie and with a sigh, I moved on. We visited the wine shop where the owner refuses to let anyone out until they have tried a little of everything. We need to start arranging a designated driver when we go there. He really nails the perfect wine for any occasion though and now when we come in he says, Aha - the American girl! We got some nice Spanish wine and a few bottles of sparkling wine and teetered on out of there.

Early this morning we set about making the house and food ready for a 2 PM start time. I was surprised when M. decided to just stay out of the kitchen. Normally it kills him to not commandeer one dish or another, or just flat out take over. I think he knew I just needed to do this my way today, without compromise. By the time he got back from a morning run, most of the dishes were prepared and the turkey was in the oven.

The smells coming from the kitchen, apple pie, cinnamon, sage, turkey and stuffing, kept pulling me back to the past. If I closed my eyes I could envision myself through the years, sometimes in my mother's kitchen, sometimes one of my grandmother's, but always surrounded by warmth and laughter, feeling safe and snug and loved. The dim, late-fall days in the Northeast were the perfect backdrop for this cozy holiday. We were all younger then but that is how I picture my family still.

I blinked and it was a few hours later. M. and our friends were laughing and chatting in the living room, flipping back and forth from German to English. The food was plentiful and the wine flowed freely. Our house felt full and for sure our bellies were.

All in all, I'm glad I went to the trouble. Our German-American Thanksgiving dinner filled a hole, one of my ex-pat holes.

Posted From Munich


Anonymous said...

terrific blog!

J said...

Sounds like you had a great time, Michelle.

How about a day trip to Darmstadt on 26 November for another Thanksgiving? We'd love to have you and would stuff you silly.

Anonymous said...

Our German exchange student LOVED her first Thanksgiving last year (except watching hubby stuff the raw bird, which grossed her out!). We'll call her this year to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. And I know we'll miss her especially much that day, remembering how nice it was to share a uniquely American holiday with her.


The Big Finn said...

FYI - Canned pumpkin is available at Globus in Basel. Ocean Spray cranberries are available at Coop in Basel, and they store well in the freezer in a Ziploc bag. We buy our cranberries when we first see them in the store to avoid the last-minute, expat-Thanksgiving rush.

ann said...

I am hoping to get a round of folks together for next weekend. I still have my cranberries in the freezer from last year, when we didn't do anything. Have to head out now - the bank just opened again :) - but having coordinated this 2x before, I have a point or two to add. I also have to say that I am in the same position, my folks having been here a month ago, and our having no Christmas plans to speak of :(

Thanks for the pumpkin tip. I am not _that_ far from Basel - it's certainly better than having relatives send canned pumpkin!

Michelle said...

Hi All,

Thanks for the comments.

TBF, I will check out Globus for the pumpkin - I want some for Christmas since I missed it for Thanksgiving.

j, Thanks for the invite - we are spending a long weekend in Rome (luckily for my waistline, I think). Would have liked to have made it to the meetup but when I checked the logistics it wasn't going to work out this time.

Carol, I was surprised how much our German friends loved Thanksgiving. Most had never even had a turkey!

Ann, its tough around the holidays with family here and family there. I'm happy to have my first Christmas here but I definitely feel sadness about not going home too. Weird split of emotions but that seems to be about par as an expat with a relationship.

KJ said...

Do you have any leftovers? My waistline can always take some more :-)


Expat Traveler said...

oh michelle, it sounds so wonderful. I know it just feels wrong not to have an thanksgiving. I actually haven't had one in a long while, 3 years.

But the best one I had was in nov 2003! Oh the best...

I'm amazed you didn't have trouble with the turkey. And christina knows a lot about pumpkins. I'm thinking you needed the real thing to make the pie...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Glad you had a good Thanksgiving. Hopefully mine goes just as well (it's tonight).

And I wouldn't go for making pumpkin pie from scratch. I did it this year, only because pumpkin innards were forced upon me by well-meaning "friends" ;-), and the pie is kinda funny looking and a little too sweet.

Hope you're having fun in Rome!