Being a Canadian Student attending the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, I was prepared to cross Thanksgiving off of my list of holidays to celebrate. I could have never predicted that Canadian Thanksgiving would become a staple event in my autumn semester, and that American Thanksgiving would become just as big of a deal. Instead of losing the tradition all together, I have become spoiled with how many turkey dinners I get to make and attend. An event that used to be solely about family time (and pumpkin pie), has now taken on new meaning. Thanksgiving, when celebrated abroad is a way to be reminded of traditions celebrated at home, as well as a way to share the old traditions with new friends.
The international students at St. Andrews take Thanksgiving (Canadian or American) very seriously. Walking down the streets on the Sunday of Canadian Thanksgiving, or the Thursday of American Thanksgiving, you are bound to see houses dimly lit with people congregated around dining room tables. A particularly observant shopper may notice the brussel sprouts to be particularly low in stock.
This year, my Canadian flatmate Dave and I made a Canadian thanksgiving for fifteen of our friends. We wore our best plaid shirts and hockey jerseys, and tried to replicate our mother's best dishes. Dave made beer can chicken (turkey is quite hard to come across in the UK). I made sweet potatoes, amongst many other vegetable dishes that filled up our guests. For dessert, a classic pumpkin pie with maple whipped cream wowed and intrigued our guests. Having an international group celebrating with us, many people were perplexed by the idea of pumpkins being turned into a pie. It is rarely eaten in the UK and the pumpkin mix is hard to come across. Luckily for me, the Italians, English and Swedish in the group seemed to approve.
For American Thanksgiving, I was amazed to see the feast that the three American girls living next door to me took on. A sit down dinner for 25 people, all made from scratch in their tiny kitchen. They were one of the ten or so dinners that I had heard about taking place throughout town.
The fascinating part of celebrating thanksgiving abroad, is how it interweaves people of all different nationalities into the celebration. Samira Qassim, a fourth year student from Liverpool stated that she "had never celebrated thanksgiving before coming to St. Andrews." She thinks of it as "Christmas without the consumerism" and is an event that is now near and dear to her heart, and a staple to the fall semester.
Thanksgiving is a special holiday that really makes me feel like I have found the feeling of home, in a foreign place. It is intriguing to see the importance that is placed on the holiday in St. Andrews and how international students rise to the occasion to recreate their own traditions, while incorporating new people and an international twist. I feel that my love for Thanksgiving has heightened. Once being something distinctly Canadian, it is now a way to share my culture and traditions with my new family, the friends that I have made from all over the world; proving that home really is where the heart is.