My first Thanksgiving: An exciting experience in a foreign country

8 December 2014

Student Writer Vanessa Siemers shares her thoughts on experiencing Thanksgiving in America for the first time as a German international student. She describes her thoughts on the family togetherness and consumption of copious amounts of food that characterize American Thanksgivings.

This is an article about a German girl (me) who had her first Thanksgiving in the United States. Before writing about my experiences I want to shortly introduce what expectations I had before having my first real Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in Germany is not as big of a deal as it is here in the United States. It´s a religious event celebrated in church, not a tradition in which families celebrate together in a private atmosphere.

Before coming to the United States I hadn’t heard much about how Thanksgiving was celebrated here. That´s the reason I was really excited about it. During the holiday I stayed in two different houses, so I got the opportunity to celebrate two Thanksgivings.

The first family I stayed with celebrated Thanksgiving more traditionally. Every year they celebrate this event with some of their friends, and each year all the members of that friend circle have Thanksgiving in a different house.

This year the family I stayed with went to a friend’s house to celebrate there together. Because I left them one day before the event, they offered to have their own Thanksgiving, so that I could get a first impression of what Thanksgiving in America looks like.

The preparations for the dinner started in the morning. I would say the most difficult part of the preparation was cutting up vegetables to roast inside the large bird. In the evening the whole family was assembled and prepared the rest of the dinner.

This Thanksgiving dinner included: the turkey, mashed potatoes, bread and croissants with butter, different kinds of sauces, a mix of green beans and other ingredients called green bean casserole—a popular Thanksgiving side dish in the United States, I’ve been told—gravy, cornbread dressing and cranberries.

In this family no typical Thanksgiving drink exists, so we drank what they normally drink for dinner, milk. After the main dinner we had two different sorts of dessert: crème brûlée and pumpkin pie, which both tasted really good. After the dinner we sat together, talked a little bit and watched a movie.

The Thanksgiving dinner at the second family differed more than I had expected from the dinner of the first family. Instead of a whole turkey, they had a turkey roll that had all the bones removed with rice dressing and sausage inside. The rice dressing they used is a special sort of Cajun style dressing.

Instead of mashed potatoes they had sweet potatoes, and their cornbread dressing differed from the recipes from the northern parts. They also had a basic gravy to put on the turkey, and for dessert we had Cajun brownies and a chocolate pie.

In this family all the family members came together on Thanksgiving. We dressed up and ate all the delicious food together. It was a really nice atmosphere because some of the family members are no longer living there, and this event was an occasion when all come together to see each other for a day.

During the dinner we watched a football game, which they told me is a typical activity for the day. After finishing we went shopping because evidently Thanksgiving in the U.S. today is also the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.

All in all it was a nice and great experience. I learned that Thanksgiving is a time to spend the entire day cooking and eating with your family.