What is it really like celebrating Thanksgiving while living abroad???? Here in Ireland our Thanksgiving is spent chugging Guinness with the sheep whilst our wee ones knit cream colored, chunky knit sweaters or carve ornate St.Brigid’s crosses out of the local peat then hawk them to unsuspecting tourists on Grafton Street. Just kidding!!! This is 2016, ya feckin’ eejit, and this is not PS. I Love You!
All joking aside, Thanksgiving abroad can be amazing and awful all at the same time. The first Thanksgiving I spent here in Ireland was just a month after I arrived in country, so it was lonely and sad, despite being surrounded by friends. At the time, Thanksgiving was all about the traditions we had been used to having and the familiar faces around our table.
The second Thanksgiving is when I discovered it was difficult to find pumpkin puree and French’s Onion’s and impossible to locate canned cranberry jelly. I’ve got to say that finding traditional Thanksgiving ingredients here in Ireland can be tough. Even the main event, the turkey, must be ordered up to a week in advance and is a hefty 50 euros or more for a 15lb bird.
Last year I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner in Dublin and I prepared ahead to make sure I had French’s, cranberry jelly, and corn meal. All of this preparation and doing without made me sure of one thing…..be thankful for what you have! You see it’s not what you are putting in your mouth, but who you are stuffing your face with that matters.
Every year I have spent away from home on Thanksgiving has taught me new things and made me more comfortable here in Ireland. I embrace spending Thanksgiving sipping lunch time Guinness with my husband because our kids are at school. No need to kill yourself cooking a turkey when you can dive into chicken wings in city center. There is definitely something awesome about celebrating Thanksgiving when everyone else around you is going on about life like it’s a normal day. No lines at the Tesco for groceries and if you forget something during the preparation of your meal you just run up to the store and get it because the store is open today in Dublin. No Thanksgiving here!
I’ll be spending some quality time with Uncle Hendricks while everyone else Stateside is fighting with their uncles about politics and avoiding their aunties moral lectures. On the other hand, interesting characters (aka family members) make the meal, I say, even if sometimes they ruin it. What else would you talk to your friends about if you didn’t have your drunk uncle, crazy Jesus lovin’ aunt, or alt-right cousin to make the merriment more amusing? My personal favorites are the grandma on a moral high horse, drunk uncle, bible beatin’ aunt, stoner cousin, or the random, weirdo date that got drug along to Turkey day. May you experience one or more of these folks at your feast today.
The truth is that I have learned to adapt to change and meet new people and enjoy the celebrations of Thanksgiving in a stress free way. Every single year in Dublin has seen us breaking Thanksgiving bread with new friends, as many of our new friends will only be in Dublin for a short time period, but amazingly enough the food and friendship is still present. The true spirit of Thanksgiving survives and it’s the feeling we have that makes it such a wonderful holiday.
I’m thrilled to pass on the Black Friday greed and the expectations we so often feel forced to live up to at holiday time in America. I look forward to our last Irish Thanksgiving as a quirky Saturday event held when adults are off work and children aren’t in school. I’m going to cram my small townhouse with nearly 30 people and cross my fingers that no one gets whacked with a Louisville slugger when the kids go crazy on the pinata that has become a part of our yearly meal. I’ll secretly hope someone has enough wine to make some bad decisions and that my husband’s much anticipated group selfie captures at least one person acting inappropriately. But, my real money is on the dog…..who is likely to morph into one of the Bumpus hounds when he smells that delicious scent of turkey wafting upstairs.
I’ll just sit here and drink my wee beer saying, in my most American way, Thanksgiving in Ireland, is better than yours, any day!
Cheers and Happy Turkey Day Fellow Yankees,