t’s hard to believe we are in the final months of 2020. As Halloween is in the rearview mirror, the next holiday peeping around the corner is one of my all-time favorites - Thanksgiving! While it may be hard to think of tons of things to be thankful for this year with all that’s been going on, I know that I am thankful that this day of feasting is fast-approaching. I have always been a fan of this holiday because there is so much less pressure than Christmas, where you spend the next few months financially recovering from showering your loved ones and friends with gifts.
Sadly, I have yet to spend a Thanksgiving back home in the US since moving here in 2016, but that has not kept me from creating my own traditions in China. My first Chinese Thanksgiving was quite quaint and took place at a local neighborhood restaurant with a set menu for the feast. However, it was interesting as it was a southern US Thanksgiving meal, cooked by a Polish vegetarian at an Italian restaurant in China’s hutongs. Not quite the Thanksgiving I was used to back home.
So, the next year I decided that I would take matters into my own hands and recreate a traditional Thanksgiving at my house for my closest friends. I set out trying to find a turkey, and, low and behold, I realized that my little toaster oven was far too inferior to cook the size bird I would need to feed my house full of people. Lucky for me, around Thanksgiving many shops and restaurants in Beijing are selling fully cooked birds with all the fixings that can be delivered right to your front door. I was happy and relieved, but I wasn’t just going to take the easy way out and cut out cooking altogether.
I ordered a huge bird to be delivered with two pints of gravy. In addition, I requested that my guests bring a side or appetizer, and I would prepare Thanksgiving sides for the meal. We had everything from tofu and Pock y sticks to green bean casserole and a crockpot full of super creamy mashed potatoes.
For me, in addition to plates piled high with delicious comfort food and glasses filled with endless wine, introducing my foreign friends to one of my traditions filled me with joy.
We joked that the room could be a meeting of the United Nations as we had people from Italy, China, the US, Europe, Mexico and India. Some of them had never had some of the dishes that I had made, and for many, it was their first time ever participating in Thanksgiving. After stuffing our faces and the turkey’s sleepy effects started to set in - known as the turkey coma - I asked my guests to take part in one more tradition - going around the room and saying one thing they are thankful for. While, of course, there were moans and groans from people who felt that it was a lame and unnecessary task, by the end, there was a smile on everyone’s face, and it was interesting to hear the different things people mentioned. Although, for some, they were most thankful for the pumpkin pie that was going to be served next.
After my first successful Thanksgiving at my house, it has become a tradition ever since. Last year I had to get two turkeys, and my house was packed and overflowing with almost 30 people. Since my tradition has outgrown my living quarters, this year my friends and I rented out a venue the Saturday after Thanksgiving complete with three turkeys, all the sides you can imagine and even a DJ to liven up the night while we chow down. In addition, on November 26, the actual day of Thanksgiving, I have decided to do a scaled-down dinner with my closest friends. Even though we are all far from home, and this year has been challenging for everyone, I am thankful that China has provided me with friends that feel like family and the ability to share some of my local traditions with people from all around the world.
So, as this year draws to an end, I hope we can all find something to be thankful for and share some time with close friends that feel like family while we are stuck away from home. I hope this year’s festivities are as successful as in the past; and then once the last bite of pie is consumed on Thanksgiving, it’s time to put up the Christmas tree.