It was no surprise that I would spend Thanksgiving away from my family this year. In fact, it was one of the first things I considered when I was deciding to move abroad. It just is not economically feasible to buy yet another plane ticket home, nor does it make any sense; I don’t have any time off from school, and I’ll be back for the winter holidays in less than three weeks.
So I decided about two weeks ago that since I couldn’t change the fact that I’d be away from family for Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to be moping around. Besides, how many people get to spend Thanksgiving abroad?!? Might as well make the most of it! Let’s have a Thanksgiving we’ll never forget. I texted ten of my friends: Thanksgiving get-together at my place! Bring whatever you would like to drink and be ready to have a fun night! Incidentally, most of my friends aren’t Americans, so they had never been to a Thanksgiving, but they were very excited to see a little bit of what it’s like.
I started planning my meal. I had to shop in stages because I could only buy what I could carry home on the bus, so I mapped out all of the ingredients I would need for each dish a week ahead of time and divided what I needed to buy into several trips, organizing it in order of what would go bad and buying shelf stable goods a week ahead of time, working my way towards the turkey and vegetables the day before Thanksgiving. Since my accommodation has no oven, I got ready-to-eat turkey slices--besides, the only other turkey that was available was a 25 lb frozen behemoth at Tesco, and I didn’t have a prayer of successfully preparing that, even with an oven. The real struggle was carrying home four kilograms of potatoes on Tuesday night, but I persevered in the name of Thanksgiving.
The day of Thanksgiving was a whirlwind.
Before my classes, I finished up the cleaning, vacuuming every floor and scrubbing every surface within an inch of its life. Then, after classes came the cooking. First, there were the four kilos of potatoes to peel for mashed potatoes. I only have pretty small pots, so I had to cook them in batches, with my last batch being dairy-free to accommodate for my friend Reagan. Reagan and I also teamed up to make the desert and the stuffing (which was gluten, dairy, and egg free to cover all the food allergies present). Since she has an air fryer, I prepared the stuffing and she baked it.
To make the turkey a bit more festive, I carefully spooned cranberry sauce into each slice, rolled them up, secured it with a toothpick (known as a cocktail stick here), arranged the turkey rolls, and garnished the platter with some parsley. Our final Thanksgiving spread consisted of turkey with cranberry, stuffing, mashed potatoes (dairy-free and regular), gravy, cranberry sauce, baguette slices, green bean casserole, gluten free apple pie, and regular apple pie. I also made a simmer pot with oranges, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and lemon so that the apartment smelled extra Thanksgiving-y.
The final party prep went shockingly smoothly.
The last hour ran like clockwork, with the dishes coming together at the time I had hoped they would, giving me enough time to get myself ready as well. Everything was carefully laid out, labelled, and ready to go by the time my first guest arrived. I even had about ten minutes to spare! Before dinner, we made hand turkeys, because what better way to show my friends the Thanksgiving we all grew up with than to make hand turkeys! Ya know, when you trace your hand on a piece of paper and then your thumb is the head and your other fingers are the feathers? Then we ate. We played games after dinner and into the night.
I felt (and feel) overcome with gratitude. Here I am, two months after successfully moving to a new country, and I might be missing my family, but I am already surrounded by friends who care about me and will dive right into a holiday they’ve never celebrated before and make it such a fun evening. It certainly was a Thanksgiving unlike any I’ve celebrated before--four different countries were represented (the US, France, Italy, and Spain), we ate on paper plates, the turkey came from a lunch meat package instead of Grandma’s oven, and we played games for the whole evening--but it was filled with joy and one I’ll remember forever.
I am so grateful. Grateful to be here in Ireland, grateful for my friends, grateful for my family, grateful for all the successes and failures of this fall, grateful for everything I’ve learned, grateful for my adventures and misadventures, grateful for my and my loved ones’ health, grateful for the cup of tea I drink as I write this. I am so grateful.