It's rather wonderful how many people I know in England are starting to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of us have been to the United States and just loved a Thanksgiving experience. Some of us are half American and have been raised by an American parent determined to hand down the tradition. Some of us are Americans, living long-term overseas. Some of us are married to an American and just trying to figure it all out.
This month I am listing 3 ingredients for a great Thanksgiving, where ever in the world you happen to be this November.
1. It's the people. As you read my book, Parents on the Move! (which is for everyone wanting a great relocation, not just parents), you will see that knowing the level in which you are happiest living in any community enables a great meal-time occasion. I am a Level 4, so that means I am happiest with a multi-cultural table. My American side comes to the forefront on Thanksgiving more than on any other holiday, but still I like to see all nationalities of my family and friends digging into the turkey or the vegetarian option.
2. The food. This year I want to thank Bekah Duncalf of The Wey Community Gospel Choir for introducing me to Longacres Garden shop in Bagshot. It was a bit of a drive from Farnham but easier and a little cheaper than heading up to the lovely and little American store in Holland Park. I will link to both of these places of blessing, but want to focus on the Longacre experience today. Bekah drove me, along with her beautiful baby girl to this mega store of a garden centre. Parking! It's free at Longacres!
If you haven't spent time in an English garden centre, believe me it is a place for the entire family. My husband is a gardener and I can tolerate these places due to the seasonal shopping- and the tea room. But Longacres has a Worth the Drive Level of items for anyone planning Thanksgiving with authentic American food (you get the turkey frozen in your local grocery store- or pay £400 for a fresh turkey!). At Longacres I found the dried onions, the Stove Top Stuffing, among everything I needed for evening s'mores as well as the Ranch Dressing for the starter dips. The list could go on, but plan a visit and have fun. As a Level Four, it made me happy to see aisles of food from various parts of the world.
3. Attitude. Warn people in advance that Thanksgiving is about taking that rare moment when you come to a meal with something of gratitude to share. Give thanks to God unashamedly. No politics. Take time to let each person around the table say one thing for which they are thankful to God for in this past year. Whether nor not your guests bring a food item to share is a matter of negotiation, but whatever you do; encourage the attitude of gratitude. You can get back to solving the world over Christmas.
Now, you might ask "Why isn't location on the list?" While you perhaps know someone with a big dining room, it really doesn't matter. It's the people, the food and the attitude of gratitude to God that makes the day a good day to remember.
SO, how DO we get our family and friends around the table for the upcoming holidays? My kind of family lives in several countries and not everyone wants to celebrate the same holidays on the same day. That would just be too easy! Still, I value having everyone around the table at least once a year even if the actual day we celebrate doesn't match the occasion.
Let me explain. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. We do not live in a country that recognises this day as a day off work, no matter how many Style sections of a newspaper or magazine feature the food and hand out localised recipes. Learning how to beat loneliness on the actual day has been part of my challenge in overseas living.
Here are three ways we, as a family, have developed this gathering.
1. I have learned that actually, not everyone back in America celebrates Thanksgiving on the day. There are many families that use this day off as travel time and the meal is held on Friday or Saturday. I am not alone! Taking my own motto a little more seriously ("Blessed are the Flexible") helps me to keep a good attitude.
2. Do the shopping on the actual day (as in Thanksgiving on Thursday). This gets me in planning mode, and shopping can always assist with not feeling sorry for myself. I must admit I treat myself to Starbucks Time, and look for American treats to enjoy at the English Tea Time.
3. Invite as many family members who will come, along with friends who may have heard of Thanksgiving and are curious. You could do this for any national holiday, and use it as a time to share your culture's history and food. You are passing on your culture to those third culture kids! Teach a few regular attendees how to make one of the recipes...OK. not a recipe no one wants, but something fun that truly adds to the meal.
Above all ( this could qualify as number 4!), be flexible. You can't duplicate your grandmother's set up for the day but think of it this way, they won't be doing that back home either. Oh, and remember to call home. We once included an adult child overseas by setting up Skype and putting the laptop at the end of the table! Do forewarn them and they, too, can have some special treat ready even if the time difference means they just aren't hungry. As we are redefining "coming to the table," let's gather our families any way we can!