Traded Turkeys for Toboggans

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 13. Thanksgiving, Shanghai by Brooke1 Comment

The week before Thanksgiving, I was a mess. I was plagued with schoolwork and feeling extremely homesick. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive my first Thanksgiving without my family. It’s very traditional of us to all get together with our extended family members who I usually only see once per year. Not going through that typical experience this year made me feel quite melancholic. However, I did not know what was in store for me my actual Thanksgiving weekend.

I knew I was going to Beijing; however, with all the school work I had been doing before hand I had no time to build up excitement about my trip. Once we got there it was nice, but cold, and I was still feeling down about not being with my family. However, things started to change when we went to one of the most famous pecking duck restaurants in China. Although I am a vegetarian, I was happy to see my friends try the delicacy. During the meal, we bought a bottle of wine—the cheapest one on the menu, of course. We all poured ourselves a drink and said what we were thankful for. It turns out we were all thankful for the same thing—each other’s friendship. It was in that moment that I realized even though I was far away from home, I was still surrounded by love. I was surrounded by people who had been my family away from my family this semester and I couldn’t be more thankful.

The rest of the trip ended up being as phenomenal as that first night. It was the perfect time to travel because Chinese people don’t celebrate thanksgiving and it was cold so there were not many tourists. The central focus of our trip was seeing the Great Wall of China. One of my friend’s remembered that there was a slide somewhere in the Great Wall that Beyoncé and Michelle Obama had recently been down and wanted to check out that area. We were able to get tickets through the hotel to go to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

After bundling ourselves up in winter gear and a two-hour bus ride, we made it to one of the seven wonders of the world! I honestly could not believe how large it was. The view from the wall was also phenomenal. After exploring around the wall itself for awhile, it was time for the toboggan slide. I hoped I was in the same toboggan as Beyoncé once was. On the slide, you controlled your own speed by pushing the lever forward and backward, so I tried to accelerate my toboggan as much as I could. However, I was then told by a guard at one of the check points to slow down. After the Great Wall, we were able to have a free tea tasting which was included in our tour. It was a nice way to warm up after spending hours in below freezing weather.

Although I missed Thanksgiving with my family, I know that this Thanksgiving will be one that will be particularly memorable. I visited one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire world and I got to spend time with people I care about. Although it was not a traditional turkey dinner, I still found so much to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving weekend.


  1. Hi Brooke,

    As someone who has never really celebrated Thanksgiving with her family, I am always really interested in hearing about people’s traditions and how they feel when they miss out on those traditions. I just got officially introduced to Thanksgiving last year, and I already feel the nostalgia, so I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be to experience your first Thanksgiving without your family! However, I’m really glad you found a different way to celebrate, and just like I have found with my friend-versions of Thanksgivings, you’ve found that there can be family even thousands of miles away from home. For me, it was always the Spring Festival that made me miss home the most. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to learn something from reading about all these Thanksgivings spent abroad, and have my own friend-version of Spring Festival celebrations.

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