When I spoke to my flat mates about my excitement for Thanksgiving, I was greeted with blank stares and “What does that celebrate exactly?” I was shocked. I figured the Scots didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, given its cultural history and ties to America, but I did assume that people in Europe would know why it was celebrated. Wrong. I explained to them the basic story of the Native Americans helping the pilgrims survive their first winter in America and how they all gathered together to give thanks and had a big ole feast. I told them how some of the story had been exaggerated and it was unlikely that pumpkin pie was served at the first Thanksgiving. Despite my initial surprise, I made sure they knew what Thanksgiving was and how that it is only properly celebrated by an enormous amount of food, visiting with family and friends, and the nap that inevitably follows.
Living in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving feels wrong. Going to class instead of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a strange experience. But since I chose to study abroad during the fall semester, I didn’t expect to have the traditional Thanksgiving. However, I made the best of it and did what every abroad student should do: Find other Americans and eat. Luckily, I came with a program where it was easy to find other Americans who were also missing the turkey festivities. We decided to have our own Thanksgiving and fortunately the parents of one of my friends were in town. They did most of the cooking, but the girls and I made pumpkin and apple pies, potatoes, and homemade rolls. We all sat down and said what we were thankful for this year and were reminded of how grateful we are to be studying abroad.
My program also helped us celebrate the day by hosting a Thanksgiving meal with a Scottish twist. After being served delicious turkey, sweet potatoes, haggis, and minced pies, we had a ceilidh. We learned traditional Scottish dances and hopped around the room until our full stomachs could take no more. While it was strange to be away from home on this holiday, it was nice to commemorate it and incorporate Scottish culture into the celebration. If you’re ever in Scotland on Thanksgiving, grab a friend, some turkey, and maybe even some haggis and party like the Pilgrims!