Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s a quintessentially Stateside holiday, full of festivity, togetherness and many a delicacy you won’t find in a British recipe book. So how do Americans on this side of the pond celebrate Thanksgiving? We asked travel blogger Julie Falconer – a Californian living in London – to tell us how she celebrates the holidays in her adopted country.
Meet Julie Falconer
Twelve years ago Julie bid a fond farewell to San Francisco (and an unfulfilling job in finance) to pursue a new life in London. She only intended to stay in the capital for two years but fell in love with the city, finding unexpected adventures and beauty in its historic streets. Though, at times, she still pines for the golden hills of California, Julie told us she never regrets choosing adventure over a nine-to-five. It was in the UK she started her now widely acclaimed travel blog A Lady in London and the city has proved to be the perfect base for exploring the rest of the world, her true life's passion.
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How do you celebrate thanksgiving in America?
Back home in California, I always celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends. We would have lots of relatives over to our house and enjoy a big buffet dinner with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all the trimmings. My favourite Thanksgiving food has to be pumpkin pie, so I always tried to leave extra room for it at the end.
We also had a tradition of going around the table and saying what we’re thankful for. Whether it was good health or being surrounded by family, it was nice to express gratitude with people close to us.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
For me, Thanksgiving is about food and togetherness. The meal is the central part of Thanksgiving, and it’s always been an important tradition for me. Even when I’m travelling on Thanksgiving, I try to have a meal that somewhat resembles the feast I grew up with (although one year it ended up being buffalo wings and piña coladas at a restaurant in Nice!).
Togetherness is also important. I used to always celebrate with family, but now that I’m overseas I have Thanksgiving dinner with friends. “Friendsgiving” is a lot of fun, and gathering with other expats and curious Brits is always a great time.
What are your Thanksgiving traditions?
My Thanksgiving traditions mostly revolve around food! I used to help chop vegetables when I was growing up, and graduated to baking pumpkin pies when I got old enough to be trusted with the oven. Now that I’m overseas, I usually make a dish to share with friends when we get together for Thanksgiving dinner. Because the dining table is such a focal point of the celebrations I always try to make it look beautiful; think pumpkin vases, beautiful Thanksgiving flowers and flickering candlelight!
Beyond food, my cousins and I used to play American football on Thanksgiving when we were growing up. We would head over to a nearby field and do our best to pass, tackle, and score touchdowns before heading home for the big meal.
Favourite Thanksgiving memory?
My favourite Thanksgiving memory was when I was very young and my entire extended family gathered at my childhood home. We had to put three tables together and clear all the furniture out of our living room to fit everyone in, but it was worth it to be surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins for a day.
My female cousins and I put on costumes and entertained the family with a play, and I remember going back for a third helping of pumpkin pie.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving as an American in the UK?
I gather with friends for Thanksgiving dinner in the UK. Some years I host it, other years someone else does. Since Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, people tend to host it on the Friday or Saturday. Some years I have multiple friends hosting dinners through the week. One year I went to four Thanksgiving dinners, which meant I ate a lot of food!
What are you thankful for?
This year I’m thankful for a lot of things. I was hospitalised over the summer, so I’m particularly thankful for my health. It’s also been a great year for my blog, so I’m thankful that my business has done well. And now that it’s Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to have friends in London to celebrate and eat pumpkin pie with.