Host an Amazing Thanksgiving While Living Abroad

American Expats Can Still Celebrate an Amazing Thanksgiving While Living Away from Home

After two years of tackling our favorite holiday here in Spain, Halloween, we’ve really got it figured out. (See previous article Why Halloween in Barcelona is Amazing) . But how in the world do you host an amazing Thanksgiving while living abroad?

The food, the football, the family. All a bit foreign here! While our family back home are basting birds, cozying up to Thanksgiving Day parades on TV and putting finishing touches on apple pie, it’s just another normal day here in Spain!

We can’t NOT celebrate it. No way!

So in continuing our beloved family traditions while embracing new Spanish ones, I roll up my sleeves up and try to make it special. So much pressure to tackle it all in a foreign country where some have never ever heard of Thanksgiving!

Here are my tips for hosting an amazing Thanksgiving while living abroad…

1. Find Your “Expat Store”

Every major city has speciality stores which cater to that culture. You just have to find them!

Here in Barcelona we have Asian, Indian, Scandinavian and Greek shops all with products hard to find elsewhere but in those countries.

The Taste of America store saved my a$$ this Thanksgiving! Nowhere else in Barcelona can I find canned cranberry sauce, cream of mushroom soup and mini marshmallows.

Sure you’ll pay an arm and a leg for certain items but hey, it’s all part of the fun. And visiting this shop has become a real tradition of mine each Thanksgiving as you’ll see from my recent Instagram posts.

2. Plan Ahead for the Meal

Next to tackle was the guest of honor himself, the traditional turkey. No matter what country you’re living in, turkey isn’t exactly considered an exotic food. So seek out where the local farmers market is.

But do this in advance. Don’t assume you can find the type or size bird you want in a single day.

I got a tip from an American friend about pre-ordering turkeys at the famous La Boqueria Market. But needed to place my order two weeks ahead of the holiday!

Glad I now know this – otherwise it’s veggie burgers for everyone! The point is, plan ahead so you can have the amazing Thanksgiving meal you want.

3. Include Family Favorites

Although our families aren’t with us to celebrate this American holiday, we feel them around our table as we share the special meal with loved friends. By integrating special traditions or dishes, you’ll be filling the void of not having family present.

Make sure to cover all the traditional dishes including any special ones from family. I prepare my mom’s Italian sausage stuffing and Tony’s mom’s sweet potato casserole topped with tons of marshmallows!

The bird!
Sausage stuffing
Sweet potato casserole

3. Always Include Entertainment

Beyond food, another tradition we incorporate is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. Kind of corny, I know. But it’s how I grew up enjoying Thanksgiving mornings with my parents and sisters. And my kids love it!

Giant inflatables filling the Manhattan sky, dancers dancing and trumpets blaring. My very favorite part that brings tears to my eyes every year – Santa riding the last parade float down 5th Avenue and officially welcoming the Christmas season.

It warms my heart even to this day…thousands of miles away.

My husband grew up with football every Thanksgiving. So naturally, we all huddle around the TV to cheer on whichever team is “our team”….for that day.

It doesn’t really matter – just doing it together is a reminder of being back home. Identify some ways that you remember celebrating this holiday as a family and make them HAPPEN!

4. Open Your Door

Being an expat is a special way to meet incredible people from all parts of the world and learn about them. Embracing one another’s backgrounds is what being an expat is all about.

And you have the opportunity to share yours, like on Thanksgiving, with those who don’t know much about it.

Sure, having to recreate this holiday on the other side of the globe feels different. But also makes it feel…..that much more special.

Perhaps we value it more? We reflect on our families and friends, our three children and the opportunity we’ve been given to live and work in this incredible city!!!

And yes, we feel thankful. And Blessed.