Thanksgiving is exclusively an American holiday. The unique celebration is observed in the United States regardless of your race or faith. It’s our honoring and remembrance of what the pilgrims and Native Americans shared in the New World.
It is not the same in France. Here Thanksgiving is a regular Thursday in France. Business continues and people move about as they normally would.
The holiday is a big deal for the Choice family. My husband and the members of Million Man Montclair – which was formed in 1996 after the Million Man march on Washington – have been serving Thanksgiving annually to senior citizens of our surrounding community. It’s a hectic time as donations and food are collected. Cooking begins days in advance in preparation of the 100s of people that will be fed. Volunteers gather on Thanksgiving morning to form lines, as plastic take out containers are passed from one person to the next – assembly line style- stuffing, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, greens, gravy and of course turkey are spooned into the containers.
Once the containers are filled, there are other volunteers waiting to deliver them to the homes of waiting seniors, and home-bound citizens. It’s a morning filled with a buzz of activity as the volunteers scatter around the facility to make sure everything is just right. On that day I hear the name “Wally” 100 times. Volunteers call out my husband’s name to ask him questions. Where are the napkins? Is there another pan of sweet potatoes? How many dinners do we need to fill this order?
The volunteers are loyal, each returning year after year to man their station. I haven’t cooked Thanksgiving for years. The Choice Family eats the leftovers from the senior’s meal. We are so dogged tired at the end of the day – the thought of firing up the stove and baking anything is unappealing. One of the volunteers usually tops off our personal family meal with a homemade cake or pie.
Surprisingly, now that I am in France, I missed that Thanksgiving Day hustle and bustle. I missed the look of the senior’s faces when they receive a warm meal delivered to their door. I missed the appreciation that they inevitably show.
Here comes the cavalry. Again the America Woman’s Group of Montpellier, France comes to my rescue. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving they hosted a pre-thanksgiving potluck luncheon – with members bringing their favorite dish. I brought my sweet potato casserole, which was no easy task considering it’s tough to find sweet potatoes or yams in France.
We had a second Thanksgiving celebration the following day, when my friend Rowena returned to France. Our friend Sonja and I surprised Rowena with a homemadeThanksgiving luncheon, including roasted chicken, mac & cheese, stuffing, sweet potatoes, sautéed zucchini and of course a selection of wine. No meal in France is complete without the wine.
Below are pictures of both celebrations: