Living abroad has definitely taught me a number of things about myself. These past 7 years have definitely been nothing I could have ever imagined. When I first left Orlando, I really didn’t have any expectations about moving. My move was so sudden that I didn’t have time to create any expectations about Chile so I just took everything day by day. Adapting to another country’s culture and way of life is another story. Some things are easy to pick up and others leave you questioning “why do they do that”? I think the same goes for any country you visit for a short time or decided to live in and become an expat. You learn to be flexible and keep an open mind when you meet someone new. Anytime I meet a new Chilean, I’m bombarded with questions comparing American movies with my real life. No, not all high school cheerleaders are evil. Yes, you can buy a gun at your local Walmart in most states.
Questions about how we celebrate holidays are no different. There is only one big holiday that Chileans don’t celebrate that American do and it’s Thanksgiving. Back in the day, it was a day to celebrate the first harvest between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Today, most American families get together to eat an overwhelming amount of food and watch the classic football games. Naps are highly encouraged and your family members will ask a number of personal questions about your love life and remind you that you’re a bit heavier than the last time they saw you.
During my second year living in Chile, I decided to bring this tradition and cook a wonderful feast for my friends and show them what Thanksgiving is all about. I made a huge turkey and a number of my favorite side dishes such as broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, and mash potatoes with gravy. We sat around the table and before I let anyone dig in, I told everyone about the way I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family back home. Each person who was at the table had to say what they were thankful for. It was a moment for everyone to reflect back on their year, whether it was good or bad. Some people keep it short and sweet while others really open up their hearts to talk about their year. There is always one person in the group who will get the entire table in tears. It’s a beautiful moment for everyone to just stop and look around how one special day can bring us all together. Is your heart all warm and fuzzy like mine is?
Once we were full and ready for naps, I pulled out one more thing: Pumpkin Cheese. Everyone’s eyes opened wide yet at the same time, they were reluctant to try. Now I’m not a fan of pumpkin flavored things. However, this pumpkin cheesecake is my weakness. I can’t even remember how I got the recipe and who it’s from but now it’s my biggest demand. It’s so savory and creamy and just the perfect amount of sweetness to close the Thanksgiving feast. One by one, each of my Chilean friends fell in love with pumpkin cheesecake. It was the hit of the dinner. People were picking the crumbs off the plate just to get that last taste of pumpkin cheesecake. If you want the recipe, I promise Ill post it soon. Just let me know if you really want it.
It’s been 5 years since that first Thanksgiving meal together with my friends and it’s one of the days out of the year that everyone looks most forward too. (Sept 18 is the most, but that’s another story I’ll leave open for another day) Today it’s my favorite American holiday. As a food lover, I enjoy this day because I can eat with no shame, I can nap and then eat more after I’ve woken up. It’s almost like my body knows to open itself up and let all the goodness in. As a human, I love this day because it’s a space for all of us to pause and think about all that has to happen in the past 365 days. I brought a new tradition to my Chilean family and made thanksgiving my own special way to say thank you to a country that has accepted me as one of its own.
Each year living abroad has taught me something new about myself, about others, and about how we interact with each other. It’s truly beautiful.
What about you? Have you ever brought an old tradition to a new culture? Have you ever changed up an old tradition and create something new?
Remember, When you give good you give good.