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Derry Girl for a Semester: Chapter 5: In Which I Get an Outsider’s Perspective on Thanksgiving

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Written by Charissa Roberson

As November draws to a close, I’m missing the normal festivities that would be picking up around this time of year in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Here in Northern Ireland, I won’t get a break or even a day off—let alone a feast! Given the fact that Thanksgiving is a strictly American holiday, I was curious to see what other people thought of our end-of-November turkey feast and the various traditions surrounding it.  I asked a few of my friends from around the world to share their views, in an attempt to piece together an outsider’s perspective on Thanksgiving.

“Is it like a fake Christmas?”

One of the first things I discovered is that our Thanksgiving meal is quite similar to a NI Christmas dinner.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce…this is a traditional meal for the December holidays, putting into context the above comment that Thanksgiving seems like “a fake Christmas.”  Given the similarity of these two meals, my friend from NI didn’t understand why we would have Thanksgiving just a month before Christmas, when we would effectively do the whole thing over again.  Another friend said she’d heard Thanksgiving was a much bigger deal than Christmas in the US, “which may or may not be true, I have no idea.”

What about the food itself?  

Do we have any traditional dishes that seem delicious to us, but are just plain bizarre to non-Americans?  My two friends from NI and Korea, while scrolling through pictures of a Thanksgiving feast, stumbled across one of the most beloved dishes in the holiday spread.  “Mold?” They took a closer look. “Sweet potato with marshmallows—that literally looks like mold.” Another friend from Germany wondered why you would need an entire turkey for just one family, leading me to explain the wonderful notion of turkey sandwiches, which can keep you fed for days after Thanksgiving is over.   

Overall, the idea of Thanksgiving being a time for friends, family, and thankfulness has been transmitted across the globe.  The more I chat with my friends about Thanksgiving, the more I realize how much I will miss it this year. It is truly a special time when we come together, share good food, and spend time rejoicing for all the good things we have.  

As you all return to your friends and family this break, please eat some turkey for me and enjoy the festivities to the fullest!  Besides, while I may not be home in America to celebrate, that doesn’t mean my friends and I can’t get a turkey, gather around the table, and bring a bit of Thanksgiving to Derry.