My first Thanksgiving was memorable. It was two years ago, six months after moving from Australia to New York, and three months after the birth of our first child.
That very first Thanksgiving was during a whirlwind year of adjustment. Moving countries, becoming parents for the first time, and learning to live an expat life.
The custom of Thanksgiving was novel to us. “A day with turkey? … Like Christmas, but with pilgrims?”, we puzzled. That year, we started our Thanksgiving tradition, inviting any other friends who were away from family to join us. Everyone pitched in, making or buying dishes we thought sounded “Thanksgiving-y”, and squeezing around a table to enjoy the meal and each other’s company. Far from home, we laughed, welcomed new friends, enjoyed time with old friends, and ate till our stomachs hurt. We didn’t know much about the holiday other than that someone had to roast a turkey, but we stumbled onto the true meaning of the occasion without even realizing it.
Raising a child overseas is a daunting experience. It’s hard being away from family and old friends all year ’round, particularly so on special occasions and holidays. We’ve been fortunate to be embraced into a community of expats, who similarly miss home while enjoying their new lives in New York. We are also fortunate to have found so many friends among locals. Families who have welcomed us and give us a new support network, helping us feel at home and part of a new community.
While Thanksgiving is still new to us, it’s a wonderful tradition we are embracing to celebrate the many things we have in our lives to give thanks for. Yes, we are far from home, we miss our families, and raising a small child far from home is hard. But our lives are rich in love, friendship and support, which makes all of these things easier, and has enabled us to live full, rich and beautiful lives in our new home.
This year we are teaching our toddler about Thanksgiving. She will help us prepare the Thanksgiving meal, meet with friends, new and old, and begin learning to give thanks. We will tell her that we are thankful for her, thankful for our family both near and far, and thankful for our wonderful friends. We will teach her that being thankful is like being “happy”, a word she understands and loves. That everything that makes us “happy” is something we are thankful for. It’s a beautiful tradition to embrace no matter where you’re from, or where you go, and one we intend to uphold, wherever our future takes us. Of all the new traditions we’ve learned about in our new home, learning to give thanks is perhaps the best one of all.
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