We’d been living in Asia nearly a year when we celebrated our first family Thanksgiving here. We were hosting some other expats in our home and I wanted it to be special for us and them. We’d planned ahead and ordered an incredibly high priced turkey from a local import store. I was excited. Until I got to thinking about how I was going to cook that turkey–let alone all the side dishes. While I’m incredibly thankful for the oven I have, its merely a glorified toaster oven. It only holds one pan at a time–and not even a large one at that. I began to be overwhelmed with the thought of baking dressing, casseroles and that big, oversized turkey (people in the U.S. must not want the 19 pound birds so they exported them all!). Thankfully, I have a resourceful husband and he grew up in Louisiana where they Cajun-fry their Thanksgiving bird. Having seen our fair share of street food carts around, he figured he could rig up a turkey fryer with locally available items. Boy, were we missing the easy sets from Walmart! But half a day and relatively little frustration later, we had all we needed. Turkey had never tasted so good and we’ve fried them every year since.
I needed a lot of familiar and comfortable that first Thanksgiving as an expat. We were away from family and it was hard. Maybe that is where you are at. Hear me say that it’s okay. Do what you need to do to make your holiday what it needs to be for your family. Cut yourself some slack though and realize you may have a few limitations. You might have to think of more stovetop dishes than baked dishes if you don’t have a big oven. You might have to think about main dishes other than turkey but that will still seem special.
Early on, we decided we wanted to make our holidays our own. We were in a unique position to be able to create in our own home exactly what we wanted that holiday to look like for us. No one else really had any expectations on us. We could pick and choose from family traditions we’d long loved or we could establish new ones of our own. For us, we make a whole day of Thanksgiving. One of our favorite things we’ve added to our Thanksgiving celebrations are some questions we do with everyone at the table. It’s always fun to hear people’s answers. We love that our Thanksgiving Day is all about family, friends, food, fun, and taking time to truly be thankful, rather than worrying about the Black Friday sales that actually begin on Thursday now. And doesn’t that expensive turkey and those special casseroles of Grandma’s (that took 10 times as long to make since you made very ingredient from scratch) taste a little sweeter?
Maybe you can utilize these Thanksgiving questions around your table this year!