Our First Thanksgiving

Ever since we first learned that we would be spending a year in the States as exchange students, Thanksgiving has been at the very top of our “Things We Must Experience” list. A holiday we’d only ever really seen on Disney Channel shows and cheesy holiday movies imported from the US, Thanksgiving seemed a strange day filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, and some strange concoction of sweet potato and marshmallows.

The weekend finally arrived, and we set off bright and early on Wednesday morning. Our destination was, of course, NoVa – aka Northern Virginia, to stay with a friend and her family. It was like stepping into one of the very holiday movies that had taught us all about Thanksgiving in the first place. In the three hours after we arrived, we baked a turkey-shaped chocolate cake, let loose with a glue gun to make sparkly felt Christmas decorations, and, finally, partook in an impromptu salsa session in the kitchen to a soundtrack of Puerto Rican Christmas tunes. Oh yes, the festive feeling had well and truly set in.

Fast forward twelve hours, and we found ourselves in front of the TV for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which had been the one requirement on our list of Thanksgiving-y activities. The parade was everything we hoped it would be, although, sadly, I missed Daniel Radcliffe singing. But the real highlight came with the National Dog Show, which filled in the time perfectly until we had to leave for…West Virginia!

Yes, we were doing this properly and going out-of-state for actual Thanksgiving. The sun was out in force and just starting to set as we arrived, which gave an impossibly gorgeous backdrop to all the farmland and mountains we passed through on our way to dinner.

Thanksgiving dinner itself was yet another surreal affair. Instead of the Christmas dinner replica we had first imagined, we were treated to a sort of American / Puerto Rican hybrid. Possibly our favourite part of the meal, though, was dessert: the most amazing pumpkin cheesecake either of us has ever tasted. We are definitely taking this ‘pumpkin-in-everything’ tradition back to the UK, where pumpkins are reserved purely for Halloween decorations.

So that was our Thanksgiving and it was all we had imagined and more. We got the “traditional” Thanksgiving we had been promised, but it was also a real Thanksgiving. Not everyone will have a traditional meal of turkey and the trimmings but everyone has a Thanksgiving spending time with family and friends. Especially being so far away from our own families it was lovely to be welcomed with open arms into someone else’s. It certainly was a Thanksgiving to remember – and in particular, we give thanks to our friend Alla and her family for putting up with us!

Bella Jolly and Sophie Hay, University of Exeter ’14, have secretly wanted to be American almost since birth, mostly due to a childhood diet consisting entirely of Saved By The Bell and Bring It On movies. Having more or less achieved that goal by spending a year here at W&M, their next secret ambition is to become internet famous, but in the meantime they have perfected the art of procrastination through their blog, The Virginia Monologues.

About International W&M

The Reves Center for International Studies promotes, develops, and supports the global dimensions of learning, teaching, research, and community engagement at the College of William & Mary
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