Thanksgiving is kind of a weird concept if you didn’t grow up with it. That’s what I found out when I was studying in Chile last semester. When I explained the holiday to my Chilean friends, I almost always got the reaction, “That’s lame.” To Chileans, who are exuberantly passionate about their own holidays, the idea of a day devoted to food, naps, and a parade that most people just watch on their TVs is the epitome of lameness.
But Thanksgiving was still one of the things I missed the most while I was studying abroad. Turning 21 in a country where the drinking age is 18? Mostly fine. Celebrating Halloween at a nightclub? Not too shabby. But going to school on Thanksgiving? When it’s almost 90 degrees? Devastatingly sad.
Now that I’m home, I’m happy that I get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Here are some of the things I missed most about it:
Being around people who also love it.
Although Thanksgiving has a patchy and dark history in the U.S. (which Madison has already written about with aplomb, so I won’t steal her thunder), I still love and believe in the idea of the holiday as it exists today: a time to gather with family, eat till you’re comatose, and give thanks that all of you have made it this far. My mom, dad, and siblings, one of whom comes to visit us in Indiana from Texas every year, also love Thanksgiving, and I love hearing about all my friends’ plans for the holiday.
The non-commercial-ness of it
Although Black Friday has gotten so close to Thanksgiving that the two are nearly indistinguishable to the Walmart corporation and others of its ilk, most people still think of Thanksgiving as a celebration of what you have, not what you wish you had. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family that they are comfortable being around for Thanksgiving, but one of the nice things about the holiday is that it can be whatever you need it to be. You can spend it with friends, not just family. Some people spend Thanksgiving serving the needy, and that’s wonderful. The man who cuts my family’s hair usually makes himself chili and watches movies by himself, and he looks forward to that him-time every single year. That’s wonderful, too.
The days off afterwards give you time to prepare for Christmas.
I adore Christmas. 50 percent of the songs on my iTunes account are Christmas-themed. While I am a firm believer that Thanksgiving and Christmas should be as separate as possible, I can’t deny that the Christmas season takes an inordinate amount of planning, and what weekend better than Thanksgiving weekend (starting with Black Friday, of course) to get a head start?
I REPEAT, VEGETARIAN OPTIONS. I myself am not vegetarian, but the brother who often spends Thanksgiving with us and my dad both are. Vegetarianism still isn’t a huge movement in Chile, and although I did find an excellent vegan restaurant and many places that had vegetarian options, there are also many places that don’t. If you think about it, turkey is one of the few meat-centric dishes you get around Thanksgiving. You can easily make a meal out of potatoes, pumpkin pie, and whatever vegetables your family makes on Thanksgiving (mine usually has beets, onions, and beans and greens, though not necessarily together). And many restaurants that serve Thanksgiving dinner now have vegetarian options, even if, as my brother says, they’re usually smaller than the meat portions.
If you’ve been abroad, did you miss Thanksgiving? Why or why not? Let us know.