One of the hardest things to adjust to while living abroad, in my opinion, is the different holiday schedule. It’s so strange that no one else around you is gearing up for a Thanksgiving feast. You can’t make small talk about holiday plans. And when the day comes, it goes completely unacknowledged; you still go into work or school, run errands, cook and clean like normal. In the end, it forces you to realize that the holiday you hold so dear is just a day like any other.
I’ve been abroad for four Thanksgivings now, one in the UK, two in Canada, and now one in Russia, so I’ve gotten used to not celebrating. Previously, however, Thanksgiving was my favourite holiday. I always loved getting together with family and eating massive amounts of food and sharing our thankfulness. In fact, a couple times, I made my family celebrate Thanksgiving during a time when I was home so that I’d be able to celebrate it. And since my family loves me, they did it.
This year in a Thanksgiving miracle, I had found a sweet potato in the supermarket the day before and bought it (despite the almost $4 price tag for a single one). Neither of my flatmates had ever seen one before, and I had been told previously that they cannot be found here at all. I honestly felt like it was a gift from God.
Thanksgiving day itself passed without much note. I went to work at 8:30am and got home at 7:30pm. I made myself some mashed sweet potato and rice for dinner and watched some of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes and then I made mulled wine for my flatmates and we expressed our thankfulness.
On Saturday, I went to my American coworker’s house for a late Thanksgiving dinner with his family and another Russian family, a couple called Zhenya (short for Evgeniy) and Zhenya (short for Evgenia). It was wonderful, exactly what I was missing at home. He had made a pecan pie (even though pecans were $20 a kilo!!), pumpkin pie, and apple pie each from scratch, stuffing without being able to use the box, and green beans not from a can. It’s hard putting on Thanksgiving without the normal ingredients!
During the meal one of the Zhenyas asked me, “Who do Americans say thank you to?”
That one really threw me for a loop. Who do we say thank you to? It’s weird the things you never think about until someone else asks. I gave some answer about thanking life and then redirected the question to Justin who said we don’t say thank you to anyone; we just are thankful. That’s probably the right answer. Whoops.
I went home with a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers to get me through the week 🙂
Things Russians think about Thanksgiving
- “Thanksgiving is when the Americans were all going to starve but then they didn’t.”
- “It’s the day before Black Friday!”
- “Americans say thank you to the turkey.”
- “I don’t want to have Thanksgiving dinner because I couldn’t eat as much as an American.”
- “Do Americans also have a holiday for asking for forgiveness?”