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The start of the holiday season! Thanksgiving à Paris

The start of the holiday season! Thanksgiving à Paris

Though it’s our first Thanksgiving married, it's not the first one we've spent together. We’ve had Thanksgivings with other families, with groups of friends, and one on our own, prepping for a Big Sur road trip. But this one was a bit different - we are in Paris, France, and obviously, Thanksgiving does not exist here.

But like so many other Americans abroad, we wanted to do it anyway. We have no family or close friends nearby, so there were zero options for us to do a big semi-traditional feast. We also had to work until about 7:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. And weirdly, our oven is much too small for a turkey; a week ago we decided that a chicken would suffice. 

We chose our favorite side dishes to make (we only had time and space for three) and settled on mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and green beans. Unsure what to do for dessert, I thought about picking something up at a patisserie. As he left for work, Steve made a joke about me whipping up an apple pie. I made an apple cake instead. Less work than making a pie, but just as delicious. 

Peeling apples for a Thanksgiving cake in Paris.
Mixing the batter for a thanksgiving cake in paris

On Thursday, I only had to work a few hours, so I was able to spend most of the morning and early afternoon prepping, chopping and mixing ingredients for our own Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't want to sit down to dinner at 11pm. 

After we both home, we popped a bottle of champagne, finished all the cooking and finally sat down to eat! It was delicious, but felt like something was missing. After eating, we FaceTimed our families. It was nice to see the familiar hubbub, even it was only through a screen. My only regret - not picking up an overpriced can of cranberry sauce.

It was a simple and quiet Thanksgiving - a solid start to the holidays. 

My tips for celebrating Thanksgiving abroad:

  • Pick a few traditions to recreate: We made our favorite sides, so that was good. But Steve had a point about the apple pie. Even though we didn't have the pie, the flavors in the cake - cinnamon and apple - made it feel more like home.
  • Connect with people: Whether it's the people back home or Americans living in your city, sending messages full of emojis and video-chatting your crazy family back home, you don't feel like you're so far away.
  • Embrace the Thanksgiving spirit: Everyone was walking around as if it was a completely normal day. And it was. For them. The whole time, I was thinking, "BUT it's Thanksgiving!!" On my walk home, I passed a family on the street, homeless with four kids, one was a baby. I bought a sack full of groceries (including some chocolate) and handed it to the mother. I'm so thankful for all that I have and wanted to spread the Thanksgiving cheer around, even if no one knew it existed.
  • Champagne: Because champagne always makes things feel a little more special.

What is your favorite thing about the holidays? If you're an expat, which traditions have you brought abroad? 


P.S. Around Paris, holiday decorations have been slowly going up since Halloween. I’ve resisted partly because we don't have any decorations of our own but also because I’ve been waiting for Thanksgiving to be over. Now I can really embrace the Noël season. This weekend, we’ll be hunting for a tree.

Vocab for today:

  • la tradition - tradition
  • la famille - family
  • la dinde - turkey
  • la saison des fêtes - the holiday season


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