Celebrating Thanksgiving in France

Guest Post by Madison Mackenzie, Foster Senior studying Finance and CISB. Madison is currently participating in an undergraduate exchange with Audencia Business School in Nantes, France 

I invited my friends from Audencia over to celebrate Thanksgiving this past Saturday—you don’t get time off in France for Thanksgiving and we had a midterm the Friday after. I also wanted my first family holiday away from home to be special and I thought what better way to celebrate it than to show my European friends how American food can be just as tasty. With that in mind, I embarked on a mission to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner.

The first obstacle that I encountered in throwing this dinner party is that finding a turkey and pumpkin puree in France is quite hard. When I went to the grocery store, they asked me to repeat myself twice and I think after that they still didn’t understand what I wanted. At first, I thought that it might have just been my strong American accent when I speak French, but it was actually because French people don’t really eat whole turkeys or pumpkin. But I don’t give up quite so easy, so determined to find a turkey, I went to the butcher. I know what you’re thinking now: “butcher?” Yes, the butcher. In France, it is still very common to go to the butcher to buy meat. A lot of people even prefer it because they like knowing exactly where their meat comes from, which I respect. I only wish we had the same luxury in the US given our abysmal food quality standards.

The butcher also thought I was crazy for wanting to buy an 8.2 kg (18 lb) turkey, but his wife turned out to be Canadian and knew a little more about Thanksgiving. When they finally found a turkey that size, they called me and were so excited to tell me the news. I was grateful for not only having a turkey to cook, but also for their desire to make sure I felt at home. I could tell that they genuinely cared that I could celebrate something that would make me miss home a little less.

Despite my initial struggle to find the food for my dinner, my Thanksgiving soirée turned out to be a success! Everyone loved the food and my French roommate had to take pictures of the turkey to show her mom. All my guests also made traditional food from their country and brought it to share. My French friends made quiche, une tarte, and un gâteau, while my friends from Germany brought sauerkraut, baked stuffed apples, German wine, and cheese. It was so nice to try food from other countries and have a fun night with friends outside of school. My friends were also surprised to find out why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. They understood the modern tradition of reflecting on what we’re grateful for, but they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the concept of why Thanksgiving started. They found the notion of essentially celebrating colonialism—the first pilgrims giving thanks to native Americans for helping them cultivate land—a little bizarre. My French friend Mathias, whose girlfriend is from Venezuela, said that Venezuelans would never celebrate a holiday like Thanksgiving even though Venezuela was colonized as well. It made me also realize how strange American traditions can seem to Europeans, just as we find some of their customs and traditions a bit different. It’s all about perspective.