It’s Thanksgiving but you can’t tell if you were in Madrid. Until you meet those who won’t let the holiday go by uncelebrated!
By Jeffery Dingler
Thanksgiving is the time of year to get together with friends and family, eat delicious coma-inducing food, and express gratitude. But for those of us living in Spain or studying abroad, the holiday has added significance—as well as added complexity. How do expatriates celebrate their far-flung Thanksgivings? I got together with three Americans living in Madrid to ask them what their plans were.
Katie McEwen, a photographer and teacher at Colegio Balder in Las Rozas
I think it’s important to be grateful everyday of our lives, but Thanksgiving in my family was always about making sure we stop and really appreciate what we have, so I enjoy the holiday a lot. Plus, I absolutely love all the classic dishes! As a teacher, however, the one issue I have with Thanksgiving is the story we teach to children because it’s just really misleading and false.
This Thanksgiving I am celebrating with a bunch of international friends. We each bring a dish or two and enjoy together! It feels appropriate, but it also feels weird because we still have to work and, other than Americans, no one else really knows what’s going on. I miss enjoying the day with my family most and seeing Thanksgiving decorations. This is my fourth year in Madrid and I ended up staying because I love the quality of life here. People really care about happiness and not just work.
Claire Jasinski, a therapist who works at Atenea Centro de Terapía in Chamberí
My first Thanksgiving here I actually worked for a company that was associated with the US cultural center and we had Thanksgiving off. That year it felt completely appropriate to celebrate the holiday but I have celebrated it every year even though I usually work on Thanksgiving and celebrate it on a Saturday before or after. The main difference is that we’re not surrounded by advertisements for Thanksgiving and so it feels a bit different than celebrating Nochebuena here where turrón is in the grocery stores more than a month in advance.
I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with the same friends for a long time, now with a new generation in my friend’s son and his family. We usually celebrate in Madrid, but as not all of us live here we have also celebrated in Chiclana de la Frontera, and this year we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving at a friend’s house in Alicante. I am grateful for my health, my family and friends, and meaningful work.
Max Sánchez-Kollegger, employee at Craft 19, an American bar and deli in Mercado Vallehermoso
Madrid is my home. I’ve lived here almost three-quarters of my life and it will probably be my central hub for the rest of my life. I love it here; Madrid is one of the most delightful cities I’ve had the pleasure of staying in. As far as Thanksgiving goes, I just enjoy eating a lot of food. I find it to be a lovely celebration of family and cooking and eating and all that wonderful stuff, but I don’t have any connection to some glorious history of pilgrimages. I think that sort of canonizing is dangerous and propagates the idea that nothing wrong happened to First Nations people.
However, I am thankful for the universe, for being so endlessly interesting and awe-inspiring, and all the things it produces: trees, flowers, birds, civilization, my parents, the breeze, rhythm, music, art, passion and compassion. The list could go on and on. Celebratory feasts should be relished wherever they’re held.
Featured image: Retiro Park in the fall/Bitterroot via Flickr, CC BY-ND2.0
Turkey/Benn Wolfe via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Jeff Dingler is a writer and actor who has won several awards including B-Metro’s B-published fiction contest (2015) for his short story “For Fred with the Rose-Colored Smile” as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute (2015 and 2017). He graduated summa cum laude from Skidmore College and Wallace State Community College. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY but has recently relocated to Madrid which may or may not be on a temporary basis.
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