Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad

                                                                                                           A Thanksgiving meal in Germany prepared by Sasha and her host family

November 24, 2015 - For many AFSers, their exchange year was the first time they spent the holidays away from home. But, being away from home doesn't mean you can't celebrate while abroad. Meet Mallory, Danielle, Christian, Sasha and Lindsay who brought Thanksgiving to their host countries.

Mallory - Indonesia 2013-2014

Mallory celebrates Thanksgiving in Indonesia

"I was so convinced that there was no way to prepare a traditional thanksgiving feast in Indonesia, I let it go, and told myself I was to move on from the idea of the November holiday. This, however, didn't seem quite right. Exchange was about sharing bits and pieces of my American life, and what's more American than Thanksgiving? I told my host mom how I was feeling, and she immediately took me, hopped on the back of an ojek and headed to the market to see what kind of ingredients we could find. Having been an AFS student herself, of course she was supportive of the entire idea. I was standing over a stove attempting to help my host-sister grate cheese and instructing my host-brother on how to mash potatoes in the pot in front of him. Grilled chicken was the closest thing we could find to turkey. Mac and cheese replaced the au-gratin potatoes Mom usually made back home. By November, my Bahasa Indonesia language skills weren't exactly up to par but on that night, it didn't matter. Laughing at my host dad eating rice beside his meal and seeing two cultures merge into one was unspeakably special. It may not have been the traditional Thanksgiving that I was used to, but it sure wasn't one I was going to forget."

Danielle - South Africa 2013-2014

A Thanksgiving meal abroad

"For Thanksgiving we invited friends over including some Belgian AFSers. We made food together – the closest thing we had to a turkey were two chickens, turkeys are expensive in South Africa! My friend gave my host sister an inflatable globe as a "fake Christmas/fake Thanksgiving" present since we were all going on holiday afterwards. While we were waiting for the food to cook we passed around the globe and said something we were thankful for. I took this opportunity to explain how Thanksgiving came to be and shared in a small, friend oriented way a holiday that means a lot to us back home."

Christian - Turkey 2013-2014

Christian sits down for Thanksgiving Dinner in Turkey

"It was strange being away from my family during the holidays but I had found a new family in Turkey and friends from all over the United States to celebrate it with. It was definitely an educational experience. My friend Zoe (another exchange student) and I gave a presentation on Thanksgiving to our classmates in Kayseri, Turkey. Most of classmates were fascinated about this American holiday. Not only did we explain the history of the holiday, but we also shared the recipes of the delicious food that is prepared during the celebration. The night of Thanksgiving we all met and prepared a feast for our host families. I will never forget the year I spent Thanksgiving abroad."

Sasha - Germany 2011-2012

Sasha cooks Thanksgiving dinner for her host family in Germany

"As an American abroad, it was very important to me to bring Thanksgiving overseas to share with my German family. In the United States, Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in my family where everyone enjoys each other's cooking and company. I have a very big family, so it is always a great time of year to have us all come together. My host mom called my host grandparents, aunts and uncles to tell them to save the date, and come over for dinner. The week before Thanksgiving, she had me write down everything I'd like to make for the dinner and then took me shopping at a large grocery store so that I could find everything that I needed. Certain things were a bit hard to find in Germany, so I had to work with what I had. Who knew tiny Japanese pumpkins worked just as well as huge American squashes when it came to making pie?"

"I was happily shocked when all of my German family members arrived. Apparently my host mom really conveyed to them how great of a feast Thanksgiving is because each of them came with a dish that they cooked at home. When all of the food was finally out on the table, it really did feel like an American Thanksgiving to me. I was overjoyed that I got to share this tradition with my family in Germany, and I feel that they took something from the experience as well."

Lindsay - Argentina 2012-2013


Lindsay's host family celebrates Thanksgiving in Argentina

"Although turkey is uncommon in Argentina, we were lucky my host dad was a farmer and had connections to another farm where they had some turkey.  We had a mid-day feast with my host aunts and uncles and I made a homemade pie with butternut squash instead of pumpkin.  My host aunt loved the turkey so much that she brought it to our New Year's Eve feast as well. We roasted some potatoes and made salad and applesauce too!  It was strange to celebrate it in the spring season of Argentina, but it was a delightful way share a tradition from home and some novelty foods my host family had never experienced before (with a positive reaction of course).  My meat loving host brother and father still tried to defend chicken over turkey, but I am quite certain they liked it more than they were letting on because of their pride for typical Argentine meats.  Overall it was a wonderful experience of sharing cultural traditions from home!"

Mallory, Danielle, Christian and Sasha brought Thanksgiving to their host countries as scholarship recipients of the U.S. Department of State funded YES Abroad and CBYX programs. Learn more about YES Abroad and CBYX, along with other scholarship opportunities, by clicking here!