I realized the other morning as I was riding the tramway towards Perrache in Lyon, heading to work on Thanksgiving day, that I’ve passed the last five Thanksgiving holidays here, far from home. I arrived in France in the autumn of 2007 and that year, I think I spent Thanksgiving in Lyon actually – visiting Gorky who was in the area on a river cruise traveling the Rhône. The first two Thanksgivings I spent here were rather quiet affairs, a meal on the boat with Gorky in 2007 and a small dinner of the classics with Edd and two other friends, in 2008, the first year we were living together and before I’d really befriended many people here.
It’s one of the moments in the year when I do feel homesick a bit and very nostalgic, remembering my family traditions on this holiday. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – the focus just on food, friends and family without as much commercial craze raining down and killing the mood. I think about waking up late with my mom and watching the Macy’s day parade, eating with my cousins at the kids table and that unmistakable scent of turkey and stuffing that wafts through the air long after we’ve all stuffed ourselves.
But since I came to France and started my life here, new traditions have slowly been taking root. In 2009, the year I worked as an English teaching assistant (and the year I met my sidekick, Sarah!) Edd and I hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner that brought homesick Americans and curious Europeans to the table.
A handful of us assistants cooked up the plan and tracked down a turkey. We delegated dishes for others to bring and hosted a huge pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner.
And thus started a new tradition. Certainly, not a sophisticated affair with elaborate table settings or fancy new recipes – that first time we didn’t even have enough forks and knives for everyone, despite the fact that Sarah and I had pooled all our cutlery together!
But it was a raucous, good-time. Frenchies discovering our tradition dishes and comfort food, and the Americans gabbing about family recipes and Thanksgiving rituals. We’d started the evening by spreading out all the extra Thanksgiving-themed coloring pages we’d used in class that week (we were a band of primary school teachers, after all!) and finished digesting our feast over several rounds of Write/Draw/Write/Draw.
Naturally, this version of Thanksgiving was a bit hit and the following year, we were all happy to recreate the event. Some old familiar faces, and plenty of new friends too, reconvened to bouffer altogether.
Through this new tradition, I’ve gotten to know the family classics of my American friends here in France, and our French friends (and friends of many other nationalities) have gotten to experience their first American Thanksgiving – something so exotic to them, the holiday they’ve all seen many times on TV and in movies.
This was just the case of my Biennale colleagues in Lyon. This year would be no different; even though I was not in Toulouse, and my beloved Edd and Sarah couldn’t make it to Thanksgiving, I was excited to continue my big tradition with all my new friends. They, in turn, were elated to be invited to Thanksgiving, and the pot luck was organized, a turkey special-ordered and much anticipation ensued.
The evening was a smashing success. It was my very first time roasting the turkey myself and it turned out impeccably! (I followed the Judy bird recipe, if you were wondering…) The head count topped off at 20 and we all stuffed into my Lyonnais flat to stuff ourselves with the staples. After everyone had seconds, all the plates and bowls were licked clean! A perfect mélange of French and American, there was plenty of wine flowing all evening, which probably can explain the 30 minute lib-dub practice session during which we were all belting out Queen hits at the top of our lungs.
Though I missed my Toulousains terribly, it was great to bond with my team in Lyon. I’m so lucky to be having this amazing experience there and for that I am thankful!
Hope you all had a wonderful, warm holiday – and here’s to the opening of the Christmas season, right?