Pumpkin pie – pie in the sky
This question is for Americans who are living in the UK. Do you sometimes get this? So many British people have asked me if I made Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and when I replied no I did not, they gasp and ask me why I didn’t and express their surprise at why I did not. It’s a double edged sword. I so wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner and celebrate it in the same way I used to when I was living in the US and I really miss it – it’s the most missed holiday by American expats from what I’ve been told – and it would be fantastic. However, the reality is that it’s really difficult to actually celebrate it properly unless you do it at the weekend. And then it’s not on Thanksgiving. I work full time and my three children all go to British state schools. My husband works full time. We can’t just take a day off and get away with it when it isn’t a national holiday day here. It takes hours of planning, shopping and preparation to cook a Thanksgiving meal which is much harder to do in the UK because of needing to substitute ingredients and the time it takes to do everything. In addition and more importantly, I have no American family or friends nearby to celebrate with and that is so much a part of Thanksgiving – it’s not just the food – it’s being with family and celebrating a tradition that is passed down through the generations and being with people who understand it and who’ve celebrated it all their lives. I think that is key. To quote two expat parents from my book,
“It is always easier to have celebrations and events with more people and right now I don’t have any other Americans to join in with.” – American expat parent
“It’s just me here so it’s hard to show them how I grew up, there are no cultural references and nothing is consistent.” – Polish expat parent
My husband supports me and joins in when I ask my children what they are thankful for, but he doesn’t really get it – why should he, it’s not his holiday, he never celebrated it when he was a child. I don’t really get Guy Fawkes day, I didn’t grow up with it. However, I join in and celebrate it – hard not to when living in the UK! But, I probably don’t really get it.
I try and pass on the Thanksgiving tradition to my own children in my own small way. Each year is different – it’s very inconsistent and depends a lot on what’s going on with work and who’s around. In the past when we lived in the Midlands we had some wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations with an American friend and his British wife. Great times! It’s all so inconsistent and like many others, it’s just me here.
I do feel I make an effort for my children – I want them to grow up knowing and understanding Thanksgiving – but because there’s no consistent reminder of it at school or in the media, each year when Thanksgiving comes around, they forget until I remind them (maybe one day they won’t forget). This year it’s been all about pumpkin pies. We were sent a quick and easy family recipe and the ingredients from Flora for pumpkin pie. They sent everything but the pumpkin as I already had some and it’s difficult getting pumpkin here. I used Libby’s canned pumpkin which makes a delicious pie.
We’ve already eaten most of it. Thank you Flora for helping us celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Probably the best pie crust I’ve ever made! This is when I really miss Cool Whip. It’s the best topping for pumpkin pie. I guess one plus point (and I always try and turn a negative into a positive) is that we never know what we’ll do at Thanksgiving from one year to the next. It’s always a surprise. And that’s kinda nice.
Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.