For the longest time, I spent Thanksgiving at home, with my family, in my childhood home. Even in college and grad school, I made the trip back to be with my family for this wonderful holiday. A lot has changed since those days. Careers, relationships, marriage. I can’t always spend Thanksgiving at home, enjoying the same traditions we’ve held for years. This year, I’m at my in-laws for the long weekend. It’s not the first time I’ve been here, but there’s still this sense of foreignness. It’s not the same.
But I think that’s one of the things I’m most thankful for…the opportunity to experience different places. Not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. And the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it’s more about an idea and a feeling than a place.
It’s been ten years since my first Thanksgiving away from home, and I can’t help but smile about that day back in 2006.
It was during my semester studying abroad in Italy. A friend and I decided to fly up to England to visit our other good friend who was living in London for the semester. We figured since we couldn’t be with our families, we might as well surround ourselves with friends.
Now, the British do not celebrate Thanksgiving, so locating all the traditional fixings was a little difficult. We couldn’t just walk into a store like in the states and have a Thanksgiving display there with everything we needed. It took a couple trips, some scrounging and some substituting, but we eventually located a turkey, cranberries, potatoes, green beans, stuffing ingredients and, of course, pumpkin pie.
The preparations started early. We cleared the kitchen and made the pre-dinner snacks. One of the gentlemen of the group took over turkey duty, and the rest of us selected various dishes to work on. I peeled the potatoes, someone else made the stuffing, the gravy and cranberry sauce. After a long afternoon in the kitchen performing the work our parents usually handled, we pulled the turkey out of the oven, placed all the food in serving plates and laid it all out on the table. Paired with a couple bottles of wine and some fresh bread purchased from the baker down the street, our British Thanksgiving looked pretty impressive.
After loading our plates, passing food between all of us, we took a moment to reflect on our hard work and the incredible feast we were about to enjoy. I said a silent prayer, thanking God for giving me the chance to be with friends and have a lovely meal. Then we raised our glasses to our country’s holiday and dug in.
After dinner, as we all unbuttoned our pants just a little, my friend grabbed a candle from her room and lit it. The tradition is, she said, that you pass the candle around the room, and everyone says what they are thankful for this year. Some people’s were simple, some humorous, others long-winded. But what everyone said they were thankful for was being in great company. Because that is what Thanksgiving is really all about; being around people you care about and who care about you.
The next few years will bring even more changes. More travels, possibly kids. Thanksgiving won’t be the same as it was when I was young. Rather than hang on to that, I’m excited for where life will take me. Because the beauty of this holiday is the company you keep, and being thankful for what you have.
If you are far away from home this Thanksgiving, I hope you are surrounded by good people, love and thankful thoughts.