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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.