Bringing Thanksgiving to Germany

finished product

Because my first Thanksgiving away from home was going to be in Germany, a country that knows nothing about the pilgrims, the Macy’s parade, or pies, I was prepared for the worst. Desperately trying to avoid a repeat of my recent fist fight with homesickness and armed with advice from fellow expats, I threw myself into all things Thanksgiving. Even though throwing myself into a holiday that doesn’t exist here proved more difficult than I expected, my Thanksgiving ended up being wildly successful.

When I think about Thanksgivings back home in Virginia, cozy is what comes to mind. It’s warm and bright and exhausting. It’s a day of waking up too early to do last-minute cooking with my mom and running out of time to ever finish the parade. It’s loud and crowded and with 50 of us crammed into Debbie’s living room you’ll never sit in the same spot twice. It’s coffee and football and trying to remember the names of all the babies. It’s three different broccoli casseroles and a blueberry congealed salad in honor of Papa. It’s a slow moving line that winds around the kitchen and always backs up near the forks and knives.

I wanted all these feelings. And for my lovely German roommates, I wanted to give them an authentic first Thanksgiving experience.

Grocery shopping was the hardest, but no surprise there since I find it difficult every time. Going into a German grocery store with a list is a surefire way to set yourself up for tears, tantrums, and disappointment. Seriously, never go into a Lidl if you’re looking for something.. After four trips to four different stores, I finally found the last elusive ingredients: my sweet potatoes, something kind of like turkey, and cream of mushroom soup.

With the low point of my day behind me, it was on to cooking with my roommates, which ended up being so fun. I’m so thankful to have roommates that were excited to help and to learn about an American Thanksgiving. Cooking alone, like grocery shopping alone, would have most definitely ended in tears. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on in the background, we worked on the food while I explained the parade, the foods, Black Friday, and whether Thanksgiving or Christmas is more important in America (I had a hard time with that one).

biscuit maker at work


work space


With perfect German punctuality, everything was ready right as Santa Claus made his grand appearance (I don’t remember the last time I watched the parade in its entirety). After three hours of cooking the candles were lit, wine was poured, and food was served.

I’m so happy that German Thanksgiving turned out to be just as warm and cozy  and exhausting as I had hoped. It was more cooking than I’ve ever done and more parade than I’ve ever watched. The coffee and casseroles were there, along with the addition of German schnapps. The sweet potato casserole was the unanimous favorite. And despite my protest, the orange salad was too sweet to be dinner so it was eaten as the Nachtisch instead.

setting the table

Thanksgiving WG selfie

I was so busy and excited during the day that I didn’t have the time to wish I was home (though I did miss everyone). And after dinner I was so full of wine and food that it was hard enough to keep my eyes open during the movie we watched let alone to cry. Thanksgiving in Germany was such a success that one roommate asked if we could have thanksgiving every Thursday and I would be 100% fine with that. Now onward to Christmas!

What do you think, is Thanksgiving or Christmas more important to Americans?


10 thoughts on “Bringing Thanksgiving to Germany

    • Look at us making the whole expat thing work! It was such a success, which is such a relief… I hope your pies were delicious! I had a hard time explaining American pies the other day. There’s no word for pie in German, just a catch-all cake/dessert word. So I’m supposed to make one for Felix’s mom for Christmas. Oh god…


    • What was your answer?! I went with a safe “both, but they’re very different” kind of response. You couldn’t make me choose just one! Thanksgiving was great (because I really needed it to be..)! The day before was by far the most difficult part.

      Yours looked pretty successful, too! Our grandmas would be so proud! 🙂


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