Coming from a Chinese family, I don’t remember ever really celebrating outside of eating some turkey and pumpkin pie from the school cafeteria on the day, and that was when I was still attending elementary school in the U.S. Because Thanksgiving was never really a big holiday for me, I never really missed it, whether it was here in Prague, or when I was back in Beijing.
However, last year, I did get a taste of my first real Thanksgiving dinner, cooked by one of my friends in California. It was amazing. I remember eating so much that I thought my stomach would burst, and then eating even more when dessert came along. I guess that’s how you’re supposed to do Thanksgiving dinner. Eat more than you’ve ever eaten and then look at the mounds of delicious leftovers in euphoric despair. Even though Thanksgiving food like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie will probably never make it onto my list of favorite foods (even though it’s quite a long list), I have to admit that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
This year was my second real Thanksgiving. It wasn’t anything special, just a free dinner with NYU. There was turkey, stuffing, potatoes, salad, and tons of dessert. Students were told they could bring desserts, too, and they would be reimbursed for the ingredients, so the cakes and brownies on the table just kept multiplying, and I ended up eating much, much more than I had intended to. Of course, however good the turkey and the cakes were, it wasn’t the same as spending Thanksgiving in the home of one of my closest friends, with everything fresh and homemade with a special dash of personal flair, but it was enough for me, nonetheless. I didn’t spend too long at the event after I ate enough to swear off eating for the next day (of course, that didn’t happen), and my roommate and I returned to our dorm for a quiet night just like any other.
Again, it wasn’t much, but I could feel the Thanksgiving spirit. With the reinforcement of this tradition, along with reading about all the delicious dinners people from different places would cook for Thanksgiving, I think I’m ready to buy into the tradition myself. In my time here, I’ve also gained a newfound interest for cooking, so I might try my hand at making something of my own this coming Thanksgiving, though I am sure I will need tons of help. But I am looking forward to the whole ordeal, and I really believe Thanksgiving might become one of my favorite holidays, if I can keep up the happy tradition that’s been going for two years now.
On the topic of Thanksgiving, I have to mention another dinner, which wasn’t technically a Thanksgiving dinner, but the timing was close enough to count it as one. The teacher that I’m working with at the local elementary school, Veronika, hosted a Christmas dinner—since the Czech Republic doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we had an early Christmas meal—at her house as a thank you to all of the interns and volunteers that had worked with her during the semester. There was chicken, pasta salad, beet salad, a phenomenal potato salad, and, again, way more desserts than I had expected. So I ended up far more than I should for a second time, only five days after Thanksgiving.
I was a little worried going in, because I didn’t know the majority of the people there, but we all sat around a table and there was such a nice atmosphere during the dinner that it really felt like a holiday dinner between friends, and we shared a lot of stories about the kids, about our experience in Prague, and I learned a lot more about Veronika and education in the Czech Republic, as well as working with bi-lingual or second language learning kids. It was a great experience, and really helped give me a feeling of home away from home.