For most of the last decade we have celebrated Thanksgiving abroad, here’s why.
Time Off From Work
When I was working for large publicly-traded companies, time off requests were hard to get approved and days off were scarce. Depending on when Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day fell, they could be advantageous to block for holidays away or difficult – proximity to a weekend was the luck of the draw.
But every year, Thanksgiving is a guaranteed four-day weekend. Adding a day or two before or a few days after the holiday was easier to get approved than other times of the year, and we tend to go to Manchester, England which is a short flight from the US east coast. Those built-in days off, and the bumper days where people are generally out of the office like the Wednesday before or the Monday and Tuesday after the holiday weekend make it a great use of days off to get one block off at a time without using very many vacation days.
Why We Continue To Do It
Though I left working for other businesses years ago, we have maintained this tradition for a few reasons. For one, as a business owner working in those businesses, it’s nice to have some days off where I know that it’s socially acceptable to be off on vacation. I can put up an out-of-office any week of the year and that should be sufficient, but I also don’t want my customers to be left out in the cold or feel like I shouldn’t be reached if they need something. That’s a me problem, more than an everyone problem, but many business owners read this blog and probably feel the same guilt and desire to be available for customers and staff even when they should be more engaged in their time away. Similarly, my customers take time off around this time of year too and that makes it easier.
We, of course, would still love to be with family for the holiday but continue to go abroad even without the need to worry about time off from an employer, why?
Part of it comes to down to our own traditions that have now revolved around our annual trip back to Manchester. We can chronicle our family’s growth through pictures taken on the day. But we also love the festive nature of the city this time of year with the advent of Christmas Markets, and a crispness in the air. People are out for holiday parties, there’s roasted chestnuts cooking throughout the city and we have found this as the ideal time to start the holiday season but in a personal way for our family that’s all our own.
From living in Manchester over a decade ago now, we created lifelong friendships and by coming back every year around the same time, we have been able to maintain them and grow those relationships. Regardless of when we return or what we have on the calendar, we know there’s always a trip back to our home away from home to look forward to.
How We Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad
When we first moved to England to live and work more than 14 years ago, we tried to source a turkey, make the trimmings and have a Skype (then) dinner with family at home. However, ovens were too small, turkeys were too hard to come by, and it was a lot of work for a less than stellar experience.
If we are going to be out of the United States for Thanksgiving, we might as well dispense with the trappings and make it our own. We still sit down for a traditionally stodgy meal that from time-to-time requires loosening our belts, but the key is to have it with our friends and include them in our uniquely American holiday. They’ve come to look forward to the holiday dinner as well. We don’t have to go around the table asking who is thankful for what, because we are thankful to be together and recognize how rare our time is in the same city.
This year, we celebrated at an Alpine-inspired restaurant called Albert Schloss in Manchester. Our friends were there and even brought their dog to the dinner which felt as poised for the holidays as it could possibly be.
What started as a solution to using less time off from work has evolved into an annual tradition for our entire family and our friends. We are thankful for our time in Manchester and this unique way of celebrating a holiday abroad. What we’ve found is that the sentiment of Thanksgiving is the same so long as you’re with people you care about, eating more than any one person should.
What do you think? Do you celebrate any holidays abroad? How has your experience been?