Being Thankful: Celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain

What our 'traditional' Thanksgiving now looks like.

What our 'traditional' Thanksgiving now looks like.

Dear Toni,

Since moving abroad I have discovered that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday—for me it is an excuse to get a bunch of people together, eat good food, and just appreciate how amazing life can be in general. In Granada, my family and I have created an unusual but amazing relationship with a local bar that allows us to have a pot luck in their back room as long as we buy drinks at the bar. It is not a traditional lunch, but a random dinner with people from all different areas of our daily life joining the fun together. We have been celebrating Thanksgiving like this for four years now and it has become somewhat of a classic with our friends (we are usually upwards of 50 people, young and old, hanging out all evening).

At the same time, I can understand that while living abroad it might get hard around the holiday season because you don’t have your family to celebrate with. In addition, it is right around Thanksgiving that most study abroad students are finding themselves about three months in to their stay, meaning that what I call the three month feeling is going strong. However, there is no reason to get down this time of year and I find there are two main ways that you can still enjoy the season, even when you are far away from home.

Look for a way to connect with people back home:

My first tip would be to look for ways to connect with your friends and family back home. Even if you are not going to be with them physically, consider sending postcards or organizing a Skype call to catch up (read more about our tips for staying in touch here). Reaching out to your family back home is a good way for you to tell them that you are thinking about them and might help you get through the moments where you are feeling a little bit blue (read this post for tips when you are feeling down).

In addition, ask people you care about if they can share their recipes so that you can make them while abroad. By asking how dishes are made, doing the shopping and cooking, and enjoying the food you make, you will feel connected with your loved ones even while you are far away. Again, this has two good points. Firstly, you will let your friends and family know you are thinking about them while you are making ways to stay in touch at a distance and you are able to incorporate things that you love about home in your life abroad.

Handmade Thanksgiving Invitation

Handmade Thanksgiving Invitation

Look for a way to connect with people here:

At the same time, I would highly recommend looking for ways to connect with people wherever you may be. While sharing your traditions might feel strange and people might not get it at first, I find that people often love to share the holidays you are passionate about—and if it is a holiday that has a good reason to have delicious food and great friends get together, everyone will want to join in. Consider hosting a potluck dinner (you don’t have to go crazy like we do, even with a few close friends you can enjoy a Friendsgiving) to connect with people who are in your abroad life.

While it most definitely won’t be the same experience you are used to back home, don’t think that this means that you won’t have fun. Be open to the idea that by sharing your holidays with friends abroad, you are creating new value and meaning for these special days. Just try and enjoy the time you have! You will, for sure, be changing how your friends see you and your daily habits. And, who knows, maybe you will even end up making new traditions that you never expected!

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving (or other holidays) while abroad?