Hit The Road
Isle gal ‘finds’ Thanksgiving in England
I've always thought of Christmas as my favorite holiday, but when I went abroad during the fall, I realized it's actually Thanksgiving, which opened up the season for everything leading up to Christmas.
Of course, we only celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense here in America, so this caused some internal conflict once November rolled around. Would I really have to miss out on my grandma's delicious stuffing (complete with Spam)? Would there really be no Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV when I woke up that gloomy, English November morning? And after the day passed, why hadn't all the stores suddenly burst into life with greens, reds and bad Johnny Mathis renditions of old Christmas carols?
When you study abroad, you miss out on certain cultural traditions from home, and while it's no big deal for some, it can lead to a deeper homesickness for the rest of us.
Being from Hawaii, there are more things that we tend to miss because our cultural practices draw from so many different ethnic traditions.
One of my friends went to study in Australia, where he celebrated the 2004 New Year, saying, "There were fireworks and lots and lots of drunk people, but where were all the long red Chinese firecrackers? What I really missed was mochi soup on New Year's Day.
"I didn't even know I liked mochi soup until I couldn't have it anymore," he lamented.
IT'S IMPORTANT to appreciate the ways other people celebrate their holidays because the cultural exchange is one of the main reasons for studying abroad.
However, being far away from home doesn't mean that you must negate your own traditions.
I made such a big deal out of Thanksgiving while living in England that my new friends organized a sort of makeshift dinner -- their first Thanksgiving. Instead of a turkey, we roasted a chicken, and since we couldn't find the chicken broth that my grandmother used in her stuffing recipe, we had to strain cans of chicken noodle soup.
Someone did manage to find cranberry sauce, and we cooked up several pots of rice in my power converted rice cooker, and somehow, with several bottles of wine, it was a pretty decent feast. Of course, there were lots of jokes about the absurdity of the English celebrating a holiday that was all about breaking away from England, but we figured, heck, more than 200 years after the split, it's all about the food anyway.
For me, that Thanksgiving redefined the holiday. Now, when the fourth Thursday of November rolls around, I really think about how thankful I am for having such amazing friends and family, no matter where in the world I am.
So, whether you're in Japan, Zimbabwe or the Czech Republic, make yourself a turkey sandwich, imagine Big Bird floating down 5th Avenue and think of all of the things you're thankful for. And then, have a merry time preparing for Christmas.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.