This year I had one of the best Thanksgivings of my life and I wasn’t even in America. Previously, I dreaded major holidays because I knew with the study abroad path I chose it would often mean that I would be away from home. But 2014 was the year that all my holiday worries were to vanish…
I returned to Shannon College at the beginning of September, very much looking forward to the semester ahead. September and October were great fun and myself and my housemates even hosted a Halloween party but, once November arrived this was when I began to feel that familiar ‘ I’m away from home’ holiday dread. I knew Thanksgiving was less than a month away and came to the realisation that this was going to be the third Thanksgiving in a row that I wouldn’t be at home for. Thanksgiving is purely an American holiday so I worried that people wouldn’t understand what the big deal was over, and as I grew more and more upset thinking about the day ahead I decided that this was going to be the year that was different for me.
In Shannon College, there is a small American community and by small I mean myself and three other girls. We had been chatting briefly about Thanksgiving plans and the idea of the four of us all going to dinner was brought up. We thought about it and the more we did it began to sound like a lonely event, in a restaurant where potentially no one had any idea what we were celebrating, on the last Thursday in November! We threw around some more ideas and stopped when we came to one; why don’t we include everyone.
Shannon College of Hotel Management is small so you are actually able to include almost everyone, and our plan was to make 2014 Thanksgiving a major event! We researched online how to create the best “friendsgiving” possible and set up an event on Facebook for this American day of mystery. We stated on the event invitation that everyone should bring a dish so we could all have a large meal to share. We made the event public about three weeks before Thanksgiving and we were actually shocked by the amount of interest. People were coming up and asking what they should make and thanking us for inviting them as they had never celebrated Thanksgiving and always wanted to.
About three days before the big day, we all began to get a bit nervous as some people cancelled due to academic commitments. This was one of our worst fears, as we knew this holiday wasn’t officially recognised here in Ireland, and many people could have prior commitments. We kept thinking no one was going to show up, leaving us with the one single turkey and ham we had committed to making! But, we crossed our fingers and once the day was upon us we closed our eyes and dove in head first.
I headed over to my friend’s house where the meal was being held at 7pm, and was shocked by what I saw on my arrival. At least 30 people who were there on time to help us celebrate. They each brought a dish and the food was plentiful!
Everyone was eager to sit, and eat of course, and I think people really embraced our idea. We all sat around two combined tables sharing the food each other had made and it made me realise that you don’t have to be at home to feel like you are surrounded by family. The fact that all of these new friends embraced an idea so foreign to them was absolutely unreal. After this very significant Thanksgiving, I made the decision that during my time abroad instead of being a holiday pessimistic, I was going to be known as the most unlikely holiday optimist out there!