Parisian Living

An American’s Guide to Thanksgiving in Paris

by Molli McConnell

Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different this year for most of us. As an American in Paris, Molli knows how lonely being separated from friends and family can be! In this post she shares some of her experiences of living in a foreign country to let you all know that you’re not alone this year. Molli’s Thanksgiving in Paris probably looks a lot different than yours, but we hope you enjoy reading about it nevertheless. – HiP Paris

Left: a table set with a turkey, carrots, cranberry sauce, and other Thanksgiving foods. There is a glass jar of mustard visible. Someone is cutting the turkey. Right: a cast iron pan filled with cranberries and turkey. There is greenery and a glass jar of mustard visible in the background.
Top: Tom King / rebekahpeppler / Above: Maille France

In the nearly seven years that I’ve lived in France, I haven’t been able to make it home to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. That’s seven years without my mom’s famous pumpkin pie and perfectly basted turkey, and my grandma’s Italian add-ons like manicotti and lasagna. 

Left: a view of the Paris skyline. The sun is setting and the Eiffel Tower is visible. There are also several Parisian rooftops as well as trees with barely any leaves. Right: A slice of pumpkin pie on a white plate. The rest of the pie is visible in the background. The crust is made of dough in the shape of leaves, and there are fall decorations on the table.
deareverest / Dilyara Garifullina

I haven’t been able to make it home over the years for several reasons, namely work, school, and expensive ticket prices. Plus, Thanksgiving and Christmas fall within about a month of each other. It has always been more important for my family that I am home for Christmas than Thanksgiving, and I’ve happily obliged. 

Left: an aerial view of a turkey in a baking pan. There are fruits and vegetables in the pan with the turkey. Some plates and cutlery are visible. Right: the interior of a Parisian apartment. There is a brown couch, a white chair, a coffee table, a fireplace with a large mirror over it, and a plant visible. The walls are white and the apartment is very bright. There are flowers and books on the coffee table.
lecreuset / jackiekaiellis

But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little bit homesick around Thanksgiving. Luckily for me, I’ve managed to carve out a great group of friends here in Paris and a few of them are American. When November rolls around we always try to make a plan for the last Thursday of the month.

Last year, we went all out and about 15 of us dined together. We even had turkey and pecan pie – the most authentic Thanksgiving experience I’ve had abroad thus far! If you’re in Paris this year, here are a few tips on how to make the day special. 

Left: an aerial view of a plate of Thanksgiving food. There is turkey, mashed potatoes, a roll, and vegetables. The plate is white with blue detailing. Right: a group of people are holding their glasses together above a table and smiling. There is food on the table and they seem to be toasting to their meal.
Casey James / dishcover.app

Prepare in advance

There is no French equivalent to Thanksgiving, so you’ll likely have fun explaining the holiday to your French friends. But, this also means that you may have trouble finding all of the traditional American ingredients for your favorite fare.

If you’ve really got your eye on that turkey, head to your local butcher’s shop right now to ask if they can secure you one. Turkey, or la dinde in French, isn’t very typical here so you shouldn’t expect to find one in the supermarket. 

Left: a lemon meringue pie. The meringue on the top is toasted and the crust is visible. It is on a white marble table. Right: a table set for a holiday dinner. There are several candles and decorations on the table as well as several plates, wine glasses, and wine bottles.
Charles Deluvio / hunter_of_invisible_game

Some of the other classics may be hard to find as well, but don’t panic: this is the age of the internet after all! Before you go on online you should consider heading to The Real McCoy, a shop nestled in the 7th arrondissement on the rue Grenelle. It has the largest selection of American products in the city and I can confirm that I once found Ocean Spray cranberry sauce here. They also have stuffing, corn muffin mix, and pumpkin in a can if you can’t be bothered to make your own from scratch. And The Real McCoy does deliver!

Left: an aerial view of a turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and dinner rolls on a wooden table. There are greens under the turkey, and there is a small pumpkin as decoration. Right: an aerial view of an apple pie with a bowl of apples and another bowl of citrus fruits. The pie crust is made in the shape of leaves.
Pro Church Media / Priscilla Du Preez

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

No matter how much we all love living in Paris, there’s a part of us that wishes that we could be home for every holiday. And while it can be difficult to be separated from loved ones this time of year, it’s important not to put too much pressure on ourselves to do everything perfectly.

Maybe you can’t find a turkey, so you go with chicken or duck. And maybe you do a lemon meringue pie instead of pumpkin and serve up some French cheeses with a fresh baguette as an appetizer. I think the most important thing to recreate is the feeling of belonging and community, which you can do if you surround yourself with the right people.

Left: the interior of a Parisian apartment. A white chair, wooden coffee table, a fireplace with a mirror above it, and a pile of wood are visible. There are orange flowers on the coffee table. Right: an aerial view of roasted vegetables. There are carrots, onions, garlic, spices, and other vegetables visible.
jackiekaiellis

If you’re feeling homesick, talk to your friends and family back home on Thanksgiving. It’s not the same as actually being together, but just hearing their voices or seeing their faces will help, trust me. 

As for me, as we are under Covid-19 lockdown here in Paris, I plan to go out for my one hour of allotted outdoor time and head to one of my favorite places to admire the city, the Sacré-Coeur. It’s times like these when I need a reminder of why I love this city so much. Then, I’ll head home with my French partner as I try to explain why we celebrate Thanksgiving for the umpteenth time. Maybe I’ll make him bake me a pie or two, and I’ll whip up some mashed potatoes.

Left: several people holding wine glasses for a toast. Most of the people's faces are not visible, only their arms, hands, and a bit of their clothing can be seen. Right: an aerial view of a table with a pumpkin pie, a loaf of brioche, a plate with a slice of pumpkin pie, a plate with another dessert, someone's hand with a red drink in it, and someone else cutting the pumpkin pie on it. There are a few decorations on the table such as an apple and some leaves.
Kelsey Chance / Element5 Digital

I’ll settle down onto my couch and call my mom to see what she’s up to. Thanksgiving will be different for everyone this year, but the most important thing will be to catch up with loved ones. And, well, eating pie. That’s important every year.

Disclaimer: At the time of writing, gatherings inside or outside your home are not allowed in France due to the national lockdown. Consider inviting your friends to cook their favorite dish at home, and then have a video call to enjoy it together – safely!

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Written by Molli McConnell for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Molli McConnell

Molli is American and has been living in Paris for over 6 years, where she completed her master’s degree in Literature. In her spare time, Molli runs a book review website that focuses on female writers. When not writing, you can find her in a cafe with a coffee in her hand and her nose in a book. View Molli McConnell's Website

One comment on “An American’s Guide to Thanksgiving in Paris

Love reading HiP PARIS! Thank You!
Ruth DesRoches Maine USA

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