Guest blog - Thanksgiving

‘At first Thanksgiving in France wasn’t a big deal’

'At first Thanksgiving in France wasn't a big deal'
The famous scene from the US sitcom Friends involving a stray turkey at Thanksgiving. Photo: Screengrab Youtube.
Although they won't get the public holiday thousands of Americans in France will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday far from their families back home. Jeff Steiner, who runs the website Americans in France tells The Local about why Thanksgiving is still important even in the Alps.

Americans across France will gather on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, by devouring the traditional turkey and sinking a few glasses of French wine no doubt. Official celebrations will take place in various cities throughout France, (for a full list CLICK HERE) but most others will opt for a dinner at home, with friends and perhaps their extended US-Franco families.

One of those Americans who will be celebrating is Jeff Steiner, who runs the website Americans in France from his home in the department of Haute-Savoie in the Rhône-Alpes region. In a guest blog for The Local he looks at the issues of commerating Thanksgiving in France and how a year without a turkey changed everything.

“Thanksgiving is one of those times when Americans in France will naturally feel homesick. It’s a uniquely American tradition and it’s a holiday where people’s families back in the States will be getting together. 

“Some Americans in France go back home for Thanksgiving but it’s not that easy for us to just jump on plane, like it is if you’re British. For me living in the Alps, the journey takes around 20 hours. However things are slightly easier for us now with Skype and the internet etc. That does help a lot.

"When I first lived in France Thanksgiving wasn't as important to me as it is now. The difference is that when I first lived here from 1994-96 I was single and for me in general Thanksgiving wasn't that big of a holiday, even in the US. And of course it's difficult to have a real Thanksgiving without football on TV.

"But now as a father it's become important. A way to show my son a bit of good old America.

“When I moved back to France in 2001 with my wife and son at first we celebrated Thanksgiving with other Americans. This was easy, we lived in Alsace and there's Americans in Alsace who organize a yearly Thanksgiving dinner.

"But then we left Alsace and moved to Dijon. In Dijon when November came around, we couldn't find a turkey and so no Thanksgiving. There's lots of things you can't have at Thanksgiving but turkey's not one of them. So for the first time in my life I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving and discovered it was important to me.

"After this I discovered I could buy a turkey through in-laws who are farmers. That's what we've done ever since. We now have a Dinde de Bresse at Thanksgiving. We do have to call ahead, as our turkey is specially killed for us and then arrange for pick up. A Dinde de Bresse isn't nearly as big as what you can get in the states. This year our turkey is 3.6 kilos, but it's incredibly tasty.

"We also have pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and stuffing. It's as close to home as we can get. Best of all for me is that when November rolls around my son now asks if we are going to have Thanksgiving. It looks like I was able to install a Thanksgiving tradition in him just as I did myself.

"Our tradition now is to celebrate Thanksgiving on the Saturday after the US holiday. We have American friends who come and everyone brings something. We even have a good friend who makes sure we have cranberries! Never been a big fan, but as she says you can't have Thanksgiving without cranberries. 

"Unfortunately we don't get the public holiday in France, but we can't really complain as we get plenty of others throughout the year."

Jeff Steiner, runs the website Americans in France from his home in the department of Haute-Savoie in the Rhône-Alpes region.

Is Thanksgiving still important to you even though you live in France? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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