Just to make it clear: No, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Switzerland.
For those that need a refresher, Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Canada has a Thanksgiving as well, but America really goes out its way to “give thanks.” There are Parades and football games, and everyone takes three days off work or school to celebrate. The main plate is a big, stuffed turkey (which is native to America) with sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. Everyone joins their extended family at whoever’s house is the biggest, and eats this huge meal, complete with desserts.
Why? Because supposedly, when the Pilgrims landed in America, the Native Americans welcomed them and they all enjoyed a meal similar to this one together, appreciating their differences and commencing the start of the New World with a great feast.
Is it true? We don’t know. But the point is, America is a land where people of all ethnicities and nationalities are accepted and can share and celebrate this one American tradition, no matter how long your family has lived there.
Naturally, some American friends of mine felt the need to share this tradition with our friends here, who come from all over the world. And it was a success! We crammed at least 50 friends around a huge table and borrowed chairs from Scott’s (my American friend) neighbors. Some people understood why this meal is so important to Americans, others did not really understand why we felt the need to eat an entire turkey to celebrate what we are thankful for. It felt really good to share such an American tradition with all my friends who didn’t know about it–it made me feel like, as much as I learn from them about European and Asian cultures, they can learn from me too.
Of course, I have to say what I am thankful for, even though it is obvious. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn and grow as a person, for my ever supportive family, for my friends who never cease to amaze me, for the passion to learn that lit in my heart a long time ago.
It was really a special evening–to have so many cultures from all over the world sitting at the same table, speaking the same language, eating the same food–the experience is humbling and eye-opening for everyone. It blows my mind to know that we all accept each other despite our differences, and in our little bubble of foreign students, life is really perfect.
And at the same time, we ask each other what we can do for their countries, wonder why we didn’t know about issues in China or Ireland before, and what our own governments could do about it. Really getting to know people is a truly special way of breaking outside your comfort zone and start making a difference in the world.