Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Lux...

Southern Fried Turkey
Thanksgiving in Lux is, unfortunately, just another day. Really, it isn't surprising in the least given it is distinctly an American holiday. However, when you have spent over 40 years of your life celebrating this day - watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, eating a ridiculous amount of turkey and trimmings, and spending the rest of the afternoon in a tryptophan coma while watching the Dallas Cowboys game - it can really feel disorienting when suddenly it's just another day on the calendar. The existence of Facebook doesn't seem to help matters. When everyone is busy posting about their trip to Grandma's house, cheering on their favorite football team, or just venting about how full of turkey and pie they are, it can really spark some serious homesickness.

In all honesty, Thanksgiving has never really been my favorite holiday. I appreciate the concept of taking time to be thankful for all of our blessings and spending time with family, but the stress of planning a big dinner and then quickly moving into Black Friday shopping mode has always been a little un-nerving for me. My favorite Thanksgiving celebrations have always been those where we have either traveled to other places (i.e., some other family member was responsible for the cooking!) or we have spent the day with close friends and the cooking responsibilities were shared. See a theme here? As a kid, the holiday was simply a prelude to Christmas when we were finally able to dig out the decorations and start writing that letter to Santa. I also have very fond memories of my mom cooking some incredible desserts and my dad anxiously awaiting the Cowboys kickoff, so the holiday does inspire some very strong memories. So, it is no surprise to me that this week seems to have been a tough one for me. For the first time in these five months abroad, I was finally... homesick.

So, how did we spend turkey day? Well, it really was just another day, with one exception - Joe had the day off.  Sort of. Since he works for an American company located in Luxembourg, it can be a little confusing. Do you recognize the American holidays, knowing your counterparts in the States are not in the office? Or, do you recognize the Luxembourgish holidays which are the days the kids have off from the International School? Well, for the most part, the American holidays are recognized, but in reality, everyone still seems to work at least part of the day, whether they pop into the office for a few hours or work from home. Joe chose to work from home, which allowed him to walk the boys to school and take me out to lunch - a very nice diversion from our normal routine. Dinner was a bit of a non-event, mostly because our plans are to celebrate the holiday on Saturday evening when we can get together with some of our other American friends here in Lux and indulge in a bit of a Southern version of the holiday - fried turkey, cornbread stuffing, and probably some college football in lieu of the NFL games. We did have the chance to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (during dinner) and I made it through to halftime of the Cowboys game (Joe woke me up at about 2 a.m. to let me know they won - good news given they hadn't been playing their best when I headed upstairs.) The boys had their normal school schedules, but my oldest greatly enjoyed the opportunity to chat with his friends back in Virginia via Xbox since the time zone doesn't present as much of a challenge when the friends back in the States have the day off from school!

As for Black Friday, well, it just doesn't really exist here either. My inbox was telling me otherwise by the flurry of emails I was receiving from every imaginable retailer, but the hype just doesn't carry across the pond. Instead of the dash to the mall to check out the deals, my day was spent going to Trier with my French class to check out the shopping and Christmas market there in Germany. (It is a well vocalized opinion that everything in Germany is cheaper than anything here in Lux, so we were compelled enough to see if that is indeed the case. I didn't see a huge difference with most things, but there is a much larger selection of stores that are not designer.) I can honestly say, Christmas is not the commercial spectacle here that it is in the States. It is still festive and busy, but definitely more subdued. It is an interesting change of pace. Also, with Luxembourg being such an international community, you see a blend of cultures and customs that you just don't see or recognize as vividly in the U.S.. I can only guess that the reason for this is that here you see how folks from various European countries celebrate Christmas, while in the U.S. the focus is on making sure no religious background or winter celebration is overlooked. Therefore, the view is broader, so American children learn about the different holidays - Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa. In the predominately Catholic country of Luxembourg, the focus is on Advent and St. Nicholas Day (celebrated this year on December 6th). I am sure all three winter holidays are celebrated here given the diverse population, but it just isn't reinforced by commercialism.

So, tomorrow will be our Thanksgiving celebration, fried turkey and all. It will be shared with close friends, though our thoughts will be with our families. By the way, the first thing I did on Thursday morning was to book our Carnival week vacation in February - a one week trip to San Antonio. Yes, the homesickness had definitely kicked in!

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