Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Abroad

Yesterday was my fourth consecutive Thanksgiving, and my fifth Thanksgiving collectively that I've celebrated outside of the US.

My first Thanksgiving abroad back in 2004, I spent sitting in an office with other fellow Americans who were traveling with me at the time and eating home made chocolate chip cookies and going around the table and saying what we were grateful for.  Skip ahead to 2009, my first Thanksgiving abroad on my own and I remember how much I really wanted to cook and share the holiday with my new family.  All the effort of hunting down food items that were not easily found in German supermarkets and cooking a way too expensive turkey whom we named Tod.  The food was gobbled down happily by my now in-laws, but never the less, it didn't quite feel like the holiday I had hoped to create, because to them it wasn't a tradition that had any back story or memories attached to.  

The next year, I decided to downsize and opt for a chicken instead of turkey and cook potatoes and carrots instead of any fancy sides.  Last year in 2011, I cooked a pumpkin pie from scratch (because canned pumpkin is impossible to find), and skipped the meal altogether.   This year, with my limited kitchen (a hot plate and a microwave) I decided there would be no pies and no bird of any kind -- just a grateful, happy heart.    

The American I was five years ago would never have imagined myself spending Thanksgiving day eating Vietnamese noodles in a Korean shopping mall while being serenaded by Mariah Carey and other pop versions of Christmas songs as I did this year.

 I do miss Thanksgiving and the atmosphere of the holidays in the US, but being abroad has given me a chance to celebrate holidays in different ways.  In Germany I got to experience a Christmas season that feels like it lasts from September to December, including a month long celebration of Christmas markets.  In Korea, I got to celebrate holidays that I never knew existed, like Buddha's birthday, Children's Day and Chuseok with holidays still to come like Lunar New Year.

So I missed out on a fifth American Thanksgiving, but I'll be back next year.  Until then, wishing everyone a happy holidays in the US and in Germany, as they  kick off the Christmas Market season.

My Thanksgiving meal 2012 at Little Saigon, Vietnamese Pho--(photo property of

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