Thanksgiving is clearly not celebrated in London. Here, even before Halloween was completely over, Christmas decorations were beginning to emerge. I know some people at home who would be thrilled – They start singing Christmas carols well before Thanksgiving. Skipping ahead isn’t for me. It isn’t about the historical context (which is often partially inaccurate, but that’s a whole different story!), but about family and, yes, the things I am thankful for.
I tried explaining Thanksgiving to my British flatmates, and their responses ranged from “Do they shoot off fireworks?”, to “What kinds of food do you eat?”, to “Do you give each other presents?”, to “Oh! It’s like a giant roast!” (Note: traditional roasts here are family events, and are also offered quite frequently in restaurants. Normally involving roast chicken or beef, the meat portion is accompanied by roast vegetables often including parsnips and broccoli, mashed potatos, a little crunchy stuffing-like ball [I’m not sure how else to describe it, but it’s delicious], Yorkshire pudding and gravy). Here is a picture of the roast I had at a local pub near Goldsmiths:
In a way, I guess we do give each other presents at Thanksgiving, but more in our comfort and presence than in material goods. Although, my aunt did send me a thanksgiving card, fully equipped with a foam visor (to which Ben asked me, “Why is it a chicken?”), which I of course wore – at least, for a little while:
Although we crazy (and hungry!) Americans couldn’t be home for Thanksgiving, many of us made do. Joe and I made our own makeshift Thanksgiving in the FIE flat in central, where he as well as the rest of SNC’s Londoners are living. Although we didn’t have turkey, we made a roast chicken, mashed potatos, stuffing, gravy, carrots, and for the final touch added some craisins (I couldn’t find any canned cranberries in the store, which would have had a hard time replacing my dad’s homemade cranberry sauce anyway, but still).
Thankfully, many of us were able to skype home that night (yes, I did feature the hat while skyping…), catching our families before they ate dinner. As I come to my last three weeks abroad, not being with my family to celebrate Thanksgiving was a bit painful, I will admit. But at the same time I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am for my experiences abroad, with people I knew before and the people I’ve met along the way.
Nicole Engbretson is studying abroad at Goldsmiths College in London, England.