Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada and across the country my family and friends celebrated by hosting turkey dinners, eating pumpkin pie and spending time with loved ones.
Even though Thanksgiving always takes place on the second Monday in October in Canada, the holiday sort of snuck up on me this year. I suppose it’s because I wasn’t surrounded by television commercials, grocery specials and conversations about the holiday long weekend here in Germany where it’s not celebrated.
I decided to plan an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner even though the holiday was right around the corner. I flipped through my favourite Canadian cookbook that I brought with me to Germany, bookmarked recipes from my favourite food blogs and went on an elaborate 3 hour grocery shop to 4 different stores and bakeries to get all the ingredients I needed. (FYI, cranberries, canned pumpkin and whole turkeys are not readily available so I had to get resourceful).
Here is the holiday menu that I prepared:
- Roasted carrot and butternut spread (which I forgot to serve because I made it the day before and accidentally left it in the fridge!)
- Sparkling pomegranate sangria
- Whiskey-glazed carrots
- Mashed potatoes
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Cherry pecan stuffing
- Roasted turkey pieces (thigh and breast)
- Preiselbeeren sauce (a small red berry similar in taste to a cranberry)
- Rustic apple tart with dulce de leche drizzle and vanilla ice cream
- Soft frosted pumpkin spice cookies
We celebrated early on Saturday and S’s younger sister was able to join us for dinner. For the past 2 years, S and I have had a tiny Thanksgiving dinner just the two of us so this was my first year hosting a dinner with a guest. I started prepping early on Saturday morning and gradually checked off small tasks on my list as the day went on.
As I was buzzing around the kitchen peeling and chopping carrots, toasting bread cubes for the stuffing, wrestling pomegrante seeds out from the stubborn pomegranate pith, and rolling out pie crust, I started to feel a little heartsore. I thought of my extended family celebrating the holiday back home, divvying up the dishes pot-luck style and cooking the traditional dishes that we usually have each year. I thought of my siblings spread across the country celebrating with their families and friends in new cities, starting new traditions of their own. I was feeling homesick, lonely and remote.
But the longer I kept cooking, the more I felt comforted by small reminders of home: the ladybug spatula that my coworkers gave me as a going away gift when I moved to Germany, the beautiful jadeite mixing bowl my friend Nicole gave us as a wedding present, and the brown sugar that I brought back from Canada which I used in my apple tart recipe. Though I will of course miss celebrating special holidays at home in Canada, I do feel like I can continue to honour holiday traditions by celebrating here in Germany even though nobody else is celebrating around me. If that means that I have to find a cranberry sauce substitute, roast and puree my own pumpkins or track down turkey pieces all over town, then I’ll do it and gladly.
Expats – do you ever feel this way? Does it get harder or easier for you over time to be away for certain holidays and special occasions? How do you cope? I’d love to hear in the comments below.