I have to say that Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday.
When it comes to the food, yeah it's tasty, but there are other meals (like my family's traditional prime rib Christmas dinner) that I prefer. Also, I don't hate football- but I'd rather go to a game (or tailgate one) than watch it on TV. Also, I went to college nine hours from home, so I haven't spent Thanksgiving with my family since I was 18 years old.
There are things, of course, about Thanksgiving that suit me just fine. I heart long weekends, for sure. As a grown up, I enjoy the freedom to day-drink and have it be socially accepted. I really have come to love the satisfaction that comes with cooking a big meal (including mastering some family recipes) and watching others enjoy it. I also relish the inevitable food-coma and nap which follow said meal.
Chiefly, however, over the last nine years Thanksgiving has become a holiday to spend with friends, new and old. None have been with the same exact group of people around the table, or had an identical menu.
But each has been special, and this year was no exception.
Being an "ex-pat" (as a friend recently called me) in Israel on an all-American holiday unexpectedly made my observance of Thanksgiving imperative. I kind of figured before I left that it wouldn't be a big deal for me this year (there are, after all, plenty of Jewish holidays to celebrate while I'm here), but the opposite was true. All of a sudden I was willing to do whatever it took.
A friend from my program, Daniel, lives downtown, in an apartment with a full kitchen (something my dorm room is lacking), and graciously offered to host. So I assembled a group of new and old friends and in a true team effort we made it happen. Nicole's roommate Carmel is an incredible chef and offered to help plan/execute the menu if I assisted her. Noa's mom lives in a nearby town with the only grocery store in Israel which sells canned pumpkin (that piece was HUGE) so the pie became a reality. Libbie was looking for a group of Americans to celebrate with, and I was so happy to introduce her to some of my new friends from school- she also donated some bakeware from her grown-up, real-person inventory (thanks, Lib!). We ate like kings, had some drinks, and shared what we are thankful for.
I was thankful for another Thanksgiving memory that is as unique as it is special.
It was a wonderful way to spend a holiday that has never been my top priority, but has never failed to be one of my favorite memories of the year. I have to admit to a twinge of homesickness. But, at the same time, making Thanksgiving happen this year helped to add another brick to the emotional home being created for me here. Another little piece of this place is mine. So, this year, I'm grateful for the family I'm finding in Israel.
Thanks to each of you for making this feel a little more like home with each day.