Thanksgiving is problematic, to say the least. I messaged a friend from home a meek “happy tgives” over Snapchat this year and he responded with “Happy genocide!!!!!!” and that about sums it up. Despite the holiday’s flat-out lie of an origin story about how much sharing we’ve done with Native Americans (you can support indigenous people fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline here), I’ve always legitimately enjoyed my family’s Thanksgiving traditions and was upset I was going to be missing out on all of them while in Madrid. My house is no longer a long bus ride away, so I figured that there would be no park visits or turkey and stuffing or falling asleep at 7 PM without being judged this year.
I’m happy to say I was (mostly) wrong! My boyfriend, who himself is not American but is studying in the United States for his penultimate semester at Tufts, was able to fly to Madrid and spend the day with me, bringing with him some reminders from home like a sweater I’d been missing and a major box of Kraft mac and cheese. I did my best to show him my favorite parts of Madrid in the little time he had in the city. We started the day with two brunches (Ojalá, why are your eggs Benedict so awful?) before going to buy flowers for my host mother. My boyfriend doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, so introducing him to my host family was a trip. Translating a whole conversation back and forth for 3 people was exhausting, and I give credit to everyone who has hosted their parents in Madrid for days on end.
In my best attempt to replicate the park tradition I have with my family, we finished the cold, gray day with a walk around Parque del Retiro before heading to the Día de Acción de Gracias dinner hosted by the Tufts-Skidmore Spain program. Although the mashed potatoes were a very Spanish puree and the cranberry sauce an actual liquid, I couldn’t have had a better time. The program doesn’t have to do this kind of thing for us, but they really prioritize having the students feel both at home and a part of a larger community. Even though I’m cringing at the triteness as I write, I was really thankful to be with my boyfriend and some of my closest friends on a day that has always meant a lot for me. Watching half the room get wine drunk in front of all of our professors was also pretty priceless.
Following my own family holiday traditions abroad—taking long walks in the park, arguing about current events, eating way too much—surprisingly made me feel more like a real adult than I had in a long time. I still missed my family, but I now know that I have the ability to carry home with me wherever I go, in a way. Of course, I’m curious what the Spanish perspective on the holiday is, and how to better incorporate my previous experiences with my new cultural understanding. If my host mother went out of her way to bake me an apple tart just because I was talking about how much I love pie, there are certainly things I can do to bring more of my past experiences to my present situation and share with the new people I call a family.