This week as Americans across the country are preparing for their regular holiday food-fest of Turkey and all the trimmings, I am not. Living in Japan has made the completely American holiday a total non-issue for expats.
On Thursday this week, everything will be business-as-usual. There will be no holiday traffic, no top-of-the-lungs arguments with Aunt Sadie, no debates about canned or whole cranberry sauce, and not even a slap on the wrist as someone picks at the carcass of the bird before it’s served. Are you seeing a controversial theme in my holiday memories here?
Lest you worry about me, this is not to say that all is lost.
In my little corner of the world, expats do Thanksgiving their own way. First of all, since Thursday and Friday are both regular work/school days and a big dinner is inconvenient, we do Thanksgiving on Saturday. One family will play host to five other families.
The food assignments are doled out in a similar fashion to any other family. I’m bringing appetizers this year, but last year I brought pie. Whoever is assigned to cranberry sauce gets to decide what type it will be! The hostess gets the honor of procuring the bird, which is a hefty task. Luckily there are international supermarkets nearby, because turkey is decidedly not a Japanese item and as such, is not available in Japanese markets. We’ll have all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie, stuffing, gravy and anything else anyone can think of. What is great is the mix of traditions. Everyone tends to request to bring their favorite treasured memory all tied up in the making of the food item. Most times the hostess acquiesces to the requests.
The family who has the honors this year actually has real, blood-related family visiting from the U.S. so the rest of us will go in and greet this visitor like a long-lost cousin about which we had forgotten. You see, we have no choice but to be each other’s family. We are all far from home; we are all far from our comfort zone. Thanksgiving is not only about the food – but about the combination of food and family. We are lucky to have each other at this time of year, which I find the hardest of all weeks to be outside of the U.S.
It’s going to be a grand and joyous table for my family this coming Saturday. And by family, I mean a significant portion of my lovely family of friends, for whom I am grateful. There is much for which to give thanks.