One of the harder challenges I have had to face during my time abroad was the fact that I would not be spending the American holiday of Thanksgiving with my family. I have a pretty small family and we do not have the stereotypical large family feast that has become synonymous with the big day, and even though I would not be missing a huge family celebration, I did miss the thought of being near to loved ones. This changed however, when an American friend of mine invited me to an American Thanksgiving celebration that she was planning with some of the other American students. They had also extended the invitation to some Irish friends as well, who all responded right away to the invite.

I decided to bring dessert and picked up two delicious cakes from the English Market (normally I would have baked something, but I did not really have the time to do so, unfortunately). The others volunteered to make the traditional stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, etc. My complements go to the girl who made the turkey-she did an excellent job. The food was a great reminder of the various homes that we were all missing at bit that day. The conversation flowed around the tables as rain fell outside, re-enforcing a feeling of hominess that a lot of us US kids had missed.

I think our Irish friends enjoyed the dinner. After explaining essentially what the holiday was and what some of the food was (we had candied sweet potatoes, which the Irish found a tad strange), we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was really touching to hear what they had to say; one was glad she got to eat dinner with our group and another was thankful that he was able to “experience” an American holiday. Whether they just wanted the free food or not, I found it pretty cool that a couple of Irish kids wanted to sit around a gigantic table with a bunch of Americans. We talked about a lot of things really, Christmas season starting in November and the various “food comas” we all experienced from too much good food were among the most widely discussed topics.

As the conversation ebbed and flowed, I noticed that our Irish friends were having a pretty good time. I found this experience a nice change from past years’ small family gatherings and it was a general consensus that this was a pretty good Thanksgiving-we got to share it with friends both American and Irish. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what one has and I am thankful for my study abroad experience and that I got to share the tradition over here. Overall, I think my Irish friends really enjoyed it and I am glad I could not have asked for a better Thanksgiving.

Originally published in 2011.