We may have embraced Halloween madness, the Superbowl and even Black Friday in the UK, but Thanksgiving dinner is a territory we as a nation haven’t (yet) ventured into.
First celebrated by Pilgrims in New England in the early 17th century, Thanksgiving is an annual American holiday for which families get together, feast on traditional foods and – you guessed it – give thanks for each other and for life’s little blessings.
Whether you’re a homesick ex-pat longing for the perfect pumpkin pie or just a curious Brit who fancies skipping work this Thanksgiving (26 Nov) and giving the holiday a go, it’s not always easy to celebrate over this side of the pond.
We spoke to five American bloggers living all across the UK to find out how they’ve celebrated and/or survived Thanksgiving in years gone by.
Liberty, aka ‘The American Cook’, Glasgow
“Over the past three years I have turned Glasgow into my own little America for Thanksgiving. This includes finding a lot of hard-to-get ingredients. In St. Louis our Thanksgiving includes an eclectic mix of processed Pepperidge Farm stuffing base, sweet mashed potatoes that we hand strain for perfect smoothness and last – but certainly not least – a 24-hour roasted turkey. For dessert we eat creamy pumpkin pie and drink Mexican Coke. Stretchy pants are a must.
“If you happen to be in Glasgow this Thanksgiving – American or not – head to Rodger’s Butchers on Byres Road for the perfect turkey to roast at home, and to the Dennistoun Bar-B-Que for a case of that elusive Mexican Coke. Thanksgiving is all about eating.”
Becky, aka ‘Yank in Yorkshire’, West Yorkshire
“I enjoy sharing some of my family traditions with our friends and family here which brought about the idea of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my husband’s family.
“Weeks before I made a list of what I would need for the dinner and at the top of that list was a whole turkey. I mentioned the turkey in passing to my mother-in-law, and she looked at me like I’d gone a bit mad. I’d naively assumed I could walk into the grocery store a week or two before the date and pick up a turkey. You know, just like in the US. But this isn’t the US, and in the UK whole turkeys aren’t needed until Christmas.”
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“Thankfully the family-run butcher in our village came to the rescue. He couldn’t get me a whole turkey – and had a good laugh thinking I could find one in our lovely little West Yorkshire valley before Christmas – but he could source a huge fresh turkey breast.
“On the day I managed to miscalculate how long the turkey breast would take to cook which led to a couple of family members consuming a bit too much prosecco on empty stomachs. Despite the delay in the meal being ready and the fact we were missing a whole turkey we all had a great laugh and some delicious traditional Thanksgiving food.”
Lela, aka ‘Lela London’, London
“I’m fortunate to have a wealth of home-grown recipes stored up for Thanksgiving in London, but ingredients always prove the be the roadblock.
“Over the past few years I’ve discovered that Whole Foods in Kensington is not only beautifully and seasonally decorated but is the sole place I can find those tricky ingredients and their healthy alternatives.”
Ashley Sheets, Brighton
“Thanksgiving is the one time of the year that I get homesick. As an American who has lived in the UK for going on four years now, it’s hard to really recreate the celebratory vibes.
“My traditions involve taking the day off of work whenever possible and making a small Thanksgiving dinner with all of my favorite bits – a honey baked ham (blasphemy, I know, but I don’t really like turkey…), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, deviled eggs and pumpkin pie for dessert.
“We also Skype with my family which is wonderful because everyone is in the same place.”
“But the main event comes on Friday night, when my husband and I celebrate with a group of friends. We eat, drink, play board games and watch a recorded version of the Macy’s Day Parade from the day before. It’s not the same as being home with my own family, but it’s the next best thing.
“My advice for any American expats abroad is this: make your own traditions and don’t spend the whole day moping because you’ll just feel worse.
“You have to make the best of it, so spread the love to your family and friends and eat, eat, eat. Bonus – revel in the fact that there will be no mad crowds at the grocery store buying all the traditional Thanksgiving foods.”
Erin, aka ‘American Mom in England’, Birmingham
“Over the years we’ve had small little Thanksgiving dinners with just the three of us and we’ve had a house full of food, fellow expats and friends.
“For me it isn’t the food that makes Thanksgiving. Honestly there is nothing that my recipes call for that I haven’t found easily this side of the pond. If you don’t feel like cooking you can be sure to find a pub not too far away that’s already serving a Christmas meal not too far removed from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Add a homemade pumpkin pie and it’s complete.
“It’s the extended family – aunts, uncles and cousins. The sitting around a big table (or a series of smaller ones) and catching up with each other – sharing our lives and making plans for the holidays. That is a real Thanksgiving to me.”