Celebrating Thanksgiving overseas

Celebrating Thanksgiving overseas

by Lydia Leasher
Stripes Japan

Turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes — these are the things I think of when I envision Thanksgiving. If you are stationed overseas, why not do Thanksgiving a little differently?


Take a trip
Like they say, “carpe diem” and “when in Rome.” Actually, Thanksgiving in Rome would be a wonderful idea! Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, use the days off from work or school to explore your host nation or a nearby country. With time off, you have the opportunity to go on an adventure while Europe is awake and less crowded with tourists.

Last year, my coworker went on a food-tasting tour on Thanksgiving Day in Barcelona. How wonderful is that? All the arrangements were made through the base Information, Tickets & Travel (ITT) office. ITT plans trips year round, so why not take one during Thanksgiving? You could take a day cruise down the Rhine River, go see Big Ben in England or tour the Colosseum in Rome. The possibilities are endless.

Outdoor Recreation has the Single Airmen Extreme program, which offers trips and outdoor activities at little to no cost. Last year, Outdoor Rec took airmen on a canoeing trip along the Rhine River before Thanksgiving. Outdoor Rec is a great resource for singles and families alike. Step out of the box, and do something different. Take advantage of the great things that Europe has to offer.


Celebrating at your home away from home
If you are set on the family tradition of serving a turkey dinner on that glorious Thursday in November, (I can’t argue with that) make your overseas Thanksgiving a FULL one! What a great excuse to invite other families, coworkers, single airmen and your European neighbors.

Last year, we invited a house full of airmen. We arranged our Thanksgiving dinner, with all the fixings, buffet style. I contacted our invited guests to see if there was a family dish that they craved and missed from back home. Then, I included it on the menu; sweet potato pie was just one of the special requests. After eating our scrumptious dinner, we played games late into the night. Yes, some of the young airmen were shy at first, and some even moaned and groaned about having to play Catchphrase. But at the end of the night they were the ones yelling and laughing louder than any others in the group. We had a great time!

If you live off base and have a good relationship with your landlords, or would like to establish one, invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a great way to share our culture with others in your host country. Branch out if you feel inclined and invite your neighbors over. You would be surprised at their gracious and thankful response.

If you have been stationed overseas for a bit, you most likely have learned that food is a great common ground for discussion, even if there is a language barrier. Everyone loves food! So, share a little bit of your culture with those around you. We absolutely love our landlords, and since they were working on Thanksgiving, we brought them over a fresh pumpkin pie. They absolutely loved the gesture.


Giving thanks on base
Thanksgiving has always been about food, family and friends. There are lots of opportunities to partake in all of these. The base chapel and local Americansponsored churches usually have Thanksgiving celebrations of their own. You not only share in the food, family and friends, but you also enjoy fellowship with others who enjoy traditions just like you.

The dining facilities always prepare traditional Thanksgiving fare. I’ve seen base commanders, first sergeants, chiefs and others come to the DFAC and serve all day long to servicemembers.

Being stationed overseas does not mean that you have to spend the holidays alone. It just means that you have the opportunity to be creative with that time off. Explore, go on an adventure or share your home and traditions! There is so much to be grateful for.


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