Thanksgiving is an odd day, and sometimes a tough one, for an expat. To everyone else here, tomorrow is nothing special — a busy work day early in the Christmas season. Sunday is the first day of Advent, and for Austrians that’s the focus at the moment.
But for an American family living abroad, tomorrow is an important day. A day for being together with friends and family, a day to take time out to be together, a day to enjoy and relax and be festive. Except that here, it isn’t. It would feel wrong to ignore Thanksgiving, but it feels weird (for me) to try to create an American Thanksgiving in our Austrian home (I know others who do exactly that, though, and love it).
So, what to do? We want to mark the day, but we don’t want to force it to be something it isn’t. So, we’ve come up with our own Austrian-Thanksgiving traditions.
Dan takes the day off of work, and the boys don’t go to school, so we make it into a real holiday. Actually, in order to help us all feel properly festive, they take off Thursday and Friday, too, so we can all enjoy a good, long weekend. We sleep in (as best we can) spend a quiet morning, and then go out to celebrate.
I’m not much of a cook. I can make a few things pretty well, but it’s not a strength or a passion of mine. Attempting to assemble a big meal using our tiny Austrian oven would be a chore for me, not a joy, so it’s no surprise that our Austrian Thanksgiving means going out, not staying in. We go to one of our favorite Viennese restaurants, and have turkey, potatoes and cranberry sauce — turkey schnitzel, potato salad and cranberry sauce, actually. It’s our Austrian Thanksgiving feast.
After our meal, we head out to a Christmas market for treats, rides (for the kids) and general festivity.
And, to end our day in the true spirit of the holiday, we finish up with a Skype with family back home. We get to say hello, chat a bit with everyone and be, just a little, part of Thanksgiving at home.
We love our Austrian Thanksgiving traditions. They’ve served us well, and it’s become a fun celebration of the holiday. I feel like we honor the day, but do it in a way that works in our current surroundings. I’m looking forward to another great Austrian Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, here and at home.