Posted in Study Abroad

Thanksgiving Comes to Utrecht

Studying abroad isn’t just for learning about your host culture; it is about sharing your culture too. This week is home to the fourth Thursday of the month of November and here in the US that means one thing – Thanksgiving.

When I looked up the factual data about the holiday I found out that the year of the first Thanksgiving is actually a contested issue, so I’ll just stick to what they taught me in elementary school.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth had a tough harvest their first year in the New Land. The Native Americans of the area taught them to plant certain crops and how to fish. The following year, thanks to the teachings, the harvest was a good one. In honor of this, the two groups came together and feasted. Fast forward 390 years (or 446 years depending upon whose camp you are in on the date controversy) and Thanksgiving is all about the Three F’s: Food, Family and Football.

While in the Netherlands, a group of us Americans decided to organize a Thanksgiving feast. We wanted to share a bit of our traditions with our friends who had never experienced the holiday before. Though we couldn’t bring the (American) football to Utrecht, we did our best to create a sense of family and community around a smörgåsbord of food.

My friend, Leslie, who was a part of this event, recently reminded me just how ambitious our plans were. They included a visiting boyfriend bringing over with him from the States some key ingredients that were not available in Utrecht, stuffing being one of them and a spice or two, if I’m not mistaken. Each of us “hosts” made either a traditional Thanksgiving item like turkey, pumpkin pie, and mashed potatoes or we made a family tradition item. I went with the latter and made spätzle, a German noodle. It seemed like too much food and not enough food at the same time.In preparation we pushed together tables of varying lengths and heights to accommodate the large group we were having from places like Italy, Spain, Finland, Ireland, and Australia. When it was time to present the food and begin the dishing out of portions, I remember pausing a moment to take in what I was seeing.

After I subdued the perfectionist hostess in me and ignored the paper plates and plastic utensils, what I saw was a group of people from all over the world coming happily together to share this day. I felt I had learned so much from all these people that it was nice to give back by way of an experience of even just a morsel of my culture. That day sticks out in my memory more than any other Thanksgiving.

In the end, the day was a big success. People were stuffed. The chefs were complimented. Stories were shared. Wine was drunk. Football (soccer) was talked (argued) about. Families were thought of. And thanks was given.

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