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Plan, Prepare, Feast, and Enjoy! Tips for Celebrating National Holidays Abroad

Today Thanksgiving is being celebrated across the United States, but it’s not the only holiday famous for its delicious food. Feasts are an important part of many popular holidays and festivals around the world. As you’ll see, all these holidays have several things in common: family togetherness, cultural traditions, and epic amounts of food!
Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are just a few of the many dishes served on Thanksgiving.

This will be the 7th year in a row that my husband and I have organized a big Thanksgiving feast for all our friends in Munich. It’s become a tradition to invite everyone we know, and over the years this list keeps growing. This time we ended up sending out 60 invitations! As we live in a moderately-sized apartment in the city center, luckily only 25 people can make it. That’s still a large crowd! This year, we’ll have guests from eight different countries.

We always celebrate on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as everyone has to work on Thursday. Tomorrow evening we’ll pick up our 12 kg turkey and then bake the pumpkin pies. Saturday morning we’ll get up bright and early and start making all the side dishes – and the turkey and gravy, of course!

The American Thanksgiving Tradition

The tradition of American Thanksgiving dates back to the pilgrims and Indians. As the story goes, the pilgrims who settled in what is now Massachusetts wanted to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and the Indians who helped teach them how to survive in the New World. Today, Thanksgiving dishes are all about plenty – starting with an enormous turkey, which usually spends the best part of the day being roasted in the oven to a perfect juicy golden brown.

Other traditional side dishes include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, and green bean casserole. Dessert, if you have room for it, is usually a collection of pies – pumpkin, apple, pecan and more. Watching American football or the famous New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are other popular activities.

Hosting Your Own Holiday Celebration

Traditionally, you would usually celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving in your home country with your extended family. This year, instead of feeling homesick, why don’t you create your own traditions? Living abroad offers a great opportunity to share your cultural traditions with people of different nationalities.

At first, you may be overwhelmed trying to find the right ingredients to make all your holiday’s traditional dishes. Don’t give up though! If you plan enough in advance, you can either bring back some ingredients after a visit home or have visiting friends or family bring them to you. Alternatively, you can check in the international foods section in larger supermarkets in your host country. Sometimes with a bit of research you’ll find similar-tasting versions of the ingredients you’re looking for.

You might also have to make a dish from scratch that you would normally buy in a partially or fully ready-made version in your home country. Although it means more work for you, these dishes will probably end up tasting even better than you remember!

Preparing a Feast, Sharing Your Culture

Make sure to leave yourself enough time to prepare. If the holiday you’re celebrating is normally observed during the week, you might consider hosting your get-together on the weekend instead. Your guests will be able to enjoy themselves more than if they came during a busy work week and this will give you more time to prepare, too.

If this is your first time making these dishes (at all or just while abroad), then you might consider trying a few of them ahead of time, to make sure they come out as you expect.

Now the smells of home are filling your house and your guests are about to arrive. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up starting your own tradition. You can reinvent this holiday and make it something your local and expat friends look forward to, year after year!


Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday famous for its delicious food. Read on for more festivals celebrated around the world that revolve around food, family, and fun!

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