Thanksgiving in Finland

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

As I write this it’s 9:46 a.m. in Finland. The weather here could go either way — some reports are calling for snow, others for rain. It’s flurrying right now, but not sticking. On the East Coast of the United States it’s 2:46 a.m., technically Thanksgiving day, although I suspect that everyone other than people preparing for the parade in New York City and hard-core turkey basters planning on eating at noon are awake. It’s still Wednesday night on the West Coast for a few more minutes. We were up at 6, had shakshuka for breakfast, and Katie was out the door headed for class at 7:30. I won’t see her until around 8 tonight, and she’ll eat lunch and dinner on campus. I will focus on writing, and probably nibble on leftovers in the fridge and pretend they’re actual meals. Thanksgiving in Finland isn’t a thing.

That’s hard for some people in the United States to grasp. I get asked what I’m doing for Thanksgiving, and tend to smile and shrug and say “Torstoi on torstoi,” Thursday is Thursday. No parades, no American football on television, no four-day weekend, no Black Friday. Cranberries aren’t a thing here. Turkey can be had, for a pretty steep price, because it’s not popular or easy to find. Yet, there seem to be an expectation that I will find a way to celebrate the day, because it’s somehow vital to my identity, to the preservation of my American-ness, to do so.

Katie and I did hit a couple of Thanksgiving dinners last year, thrown by expats. We had a nice time with friends, but it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. It felt like a obligation fulfilled, so that relatives and friends back home could be told that yes, they did do something. Some people think it’s sad when you’re living abroad and you can’t bring all of the familiar trappings with you. They miss the point of wanting to have an experience with the cultures you’re living among; if we wanted nothing but American experiences, we could have stayed in America. There are also some people that are already suspicious of the fact that you want to live outside of America for any reason, so not celebrating a uniquely American holiday is just short of being an act of treason, right up there with hanging around non-English-speaking non-white non-Christian non-capitalist friends and having the audacity to enjoy it.

Thanksgiving in Finland

Tomorrow night I’ll roast a chicken and serve it with lingonberry jam, which tastes a lot like cranberry sauce. I’ll make mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans, and stuffing from scratch with good bread. I’ll make pumpkin bread, mainly because I’m no good at making pie crusts and Katie is too busy with her thesis to tackle the job. We’ll sit and watch the original 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, because it’s one of my favorite movies as well as one of my personal traditions. We’ll talk about what we’re thankful for this year, and what we’re looking forward to in the coming year. And then, as it is for everyone else, the Christmas season will be in full swing.

Katie and I try to appreciate what we have every day. We don’t need a special holiday to remind us that we have so much to be thankful for, and so many people to be grateful to. We could live here for the rest of our lives, speaking nothing but Finnish, adopting Finnish customs, and we would still be Americans. We live abroad but will always remain products of the culture we grew up in, the values we were raised with, and the places we have lived. We give thanks for all of that, because otherwise we would not be here, in this place, at this time, reaping these opportunities and living these lives that we are so incredibly thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

All comments are held for moderation.