Why Americans in France still go mad for Thanksgiving

The Local France
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Why Americans in France still go mad for Thanksgiving
Photo: Tim Sackton/Flickr

They may have gone native over the years, but Americans in France will still embrace Thanksgiving, and are even introducing the locals to the traditional turkey feast.


They may be far from home but that won't stop thousands of Americans in France celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday night.

Although they won't get the public holiday like they do back home, Americans, even those who have been living in France for years, still see Thanksgiving as a highlight of their calendar.

And even in a country where the Reveillons feasts on Christmas Eve or New year's Eve are considered the most important meals of the year, American expats still cherish the last Thursday in November. 

They will gather in groups, sometimes huge groups, across France to devour the traditional turkey with cranberry sauce (if they can find it) and sink a few glasses of French wine no doubt.

American restaurants in Paris that run special Thanksgiving nights will have been booked out for months.


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“Thanksgiving is one of those times when Americans in France will naturally feel homesick," Jeff Steiner who leads the group Americans in France told The Local.

"It’s a uniquely American tradition and it’s a holiday. Some Americans in France go back home for Thanksgiving but it’s not that easy for us to just jump on plane, like it is if you’re British.

For Americans who have children in France Thanksgiving provides the perfect chance to introduce them to an American tradition.

"As a father it has become important. A way to show my son a bit of good old America," said Steiner.

"It's as close to home as we can get. Best of all for me is that when November rolls around my son now asks if we are going to have Thanksgiving." 

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Introducing Thanksgiving to the French

And its not just kids of Americans in France who are being introduced to culture from across the pond, it's also being passed on to the locals.

"All the Americans I know here in Provence enjoy celebrating it," Julie Mautner, who is the behind the blog Provence Post, tells The Local. "The French who join us really seem to love it too," she said.

"French friends have told me they like it because it's one of those American holidays that everyone celebrates. It's not religious and it doesn't seem to have a French counterpart," said Mautner, who will be dining with 40 others on Thursday night.

"And some of the foods are a bit foreign to them like cranberry sauce, fresh yams, stuffing mix, pumpkin pies, pecan pies and of course the turkey.

"It's just a festive, happy holiday... nothing heavy. Great food and wine, etc. One French friend liked the fact that all the food was served at once, on the same plate, not in courses."

But getting all the necessary food in France can be a problem, even the turkey, but Thanksgiving fanatics will go to great lengths to get what they need.

"Those who have done it before so they now have their sources," says Mautner.

"It seems to be a combination of getting things from the US, gathering items locally, maybe a bit of ordering online or asking friends to bring things," she added .

"Part of the fun for the hosts is trying to find what they need or finding a great substitute," she says.


A version of this article was first published in 2016







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