Thanksgiving dinner, food, and decorations are pretty hard to come across in Dublin and across Ireland. Yet, this is how we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Ireland.
It’s already Christmas in Dublin. Once the city’s jack-o’-lanterns, witches, and ghosts are packed away, twinkling lights and ornamented trees appear to immediately replace them, bypassing the warmth of November’s Thanksgiving cheer that we so look forward to in America.
Thanksgiving is a common favorite holiday among Americans: it’s a no-strings-attached celebration of food, family, and togetherness. A time for us to cook and catch up with relatives and friends from high school, douse everything in cinnamon, and play games in the warmth of home.
So to us Americans in Dublin, forgetting the holiday altogether would feel something like a sin. But here we are, year after year, in the days before the holiday, scrambling for a meaningful way to celebrate overseas.
This year, my American friends and peers in Dublin are handling the week quite differently from one another. A few are feeling extremely homesick and even plan to Skype home over dinner; a few are absolutely delighted to be able to escape the tense political discussions with distant family members over turkey and green bean casserole. As I write this, my roommate from Atlanta sits on the couch watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."
Though you may have to search, there are plenty of places to go in Dublin for Thanksgiving. Many pubs, hotels and restaurants serve full Thanksgiving dinners and are broadcasting American Football on TV all night. Last year Democrats Abroad Ireland hosted their annual Thanksgiving dinner, which I went to two years ago; film director Jim Sheridan attended as the guest of honor.
But, alas, it’s no grandma’s house: while there’s no shortage of celebratory Thanksgiving food around the city, it’s the loving feeling of home that my friends and peers are missing about the day.
A couple of my friends have made plans to leave Dublin and travel to mainland Europe, either to rendezvous and commiserate with Americans living elsewhere, or to take a trip solo, as a way to create a feeling of excitement that they know they won’t get here in Dublin.
“Friendsgiving” would be a common term thrown around as well – a night for the motley of Americans to potluck and drink together, and recreate the family feeling with friends, new and old, in the same situation.
Because I’m doing my Postgraduate studies at American College Dublin, seven out of the eleven people in my program come from the US. But because of the lack of buzz in Dublin around the holiday, I had actually forgotten all about Thanksgiving’s approach.
So when I saw an email from my peer Carrie Hearns with the subject “A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving,” I felt an immediate flutter of excitement and relief that I wouldn’t be spending the holiday underwhelmingly, or alone, receiving “wish you were here” texts and photographs from my grandmother’s house, with her long table of classic dishes, and the people I’ve always celebrated with.
Carrie invited the group to her home after class, where she’ll have spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna for dinner because turkeys in Dublin are either impossible to find, or highly expensive. Despite this, we’re thoroughly excited to all be gathering together.
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In a conversation with Alyse Allain, a friend of mine from San Francisco, who lives in Dublin working for Facebook, she admitted that though she isn’t remotely the homesick type, Thanksgiving hits her especially hard over here:
“Even when I was a kid, the idea of being away from home excited me, but it never made me sad. But every year on Thanksgiving, I’m so overcome with homesickness, it’s ridiculous. I’m sure the fact that I actually like being around my family helps fuel that, because I know for some people it’s a stressful day and they’re happy to avoid it. But not for me - all I can think about is how much I miss my family and my mom’s cooking.
“That being said, I always make sure to celebrate it here, even if it means eating chicken and stuffing in my room alone while Skyping my family because lord knows finding a turkey here is a miracle. But ideally I have a big Friendsgiving or an intimate dinner with my boyfriend and his family in its honor, and that really helps calm my homesickness.
“With the amount of Americans that live here, you’d think turkey and canned pumpkins would be easy to find, but it’s legitimately a treasure hunt. It’s so unfortunate and super annoying.”
Sara Gilbert, my peer from Texas, also gets homesick around Thanksgiving but is keeping her head up and taking the opportunity to travel: “I’ve started planning trips for Thanksgiving weekend. Last year we did a Friendsgiving in London, and this year I’m going to Vienna. I’ve decided it’s a way to keep my spirits up and have my own adventures while also having a reason to travel.
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“I might still look and see if anywhere is serving a Thanksgiving dinner, but the food isn’t as important as the company to me.”
On the other hand, my Irish American friend Molly Geoghegan, who also lives in Dublin, has happily flown off to Paris to meet her American friend, where she says they will “probably just eat an extra croissant in honor of the holiday.” While she says she’s sad to be missing all the food and doesn’t look forward to the influx of Thanksgiving photographs on social media, she feels quite excited and fortunate to be able to be in Paris.
My peer, Rai Sandstrom, from Washington, told me that though last Thanksgiving in Dublin she felt quite down, this year, she’s delighted to escape the dinner table chat: “While I was melancholic the first time I missed Thanksgiving, this year I’m thrilled. I am so heartbroken by Trump and his politics. I know I would be deeply distressed and disenchanted hearing relatives’ positive thoughts around his being elected. No amount of yams, gravy, or the good humor of my brother would alleviate that conversation.
“But Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s exactly like Christmas, minus all the stress of buying presents. I love that I’d get to spend time with my family without the added materialism.”
Whether it’s the Irish delicacy of chicken and stuffing sandwiches on Skype, lasagna and meatballs with new peers, or an extra croissant in France, we Americans in Dublin are making the most of our beloved Thanksgiving in some creative ways. Who knows - on our search for that warm, fuzzy Thanksgiving feeling, perhaps we’re creating some new traditions that we’ll uphold abroad for years to come.
Have any of you Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day abroad? What did you do to mark the special day? Let us know below.
*This article was originally published in 2016.