A French Thanksgiving

By Kathleen Sullivan

On Thursday, November 22, members of the SciencesPo Menton campus came together to celebrate one of my favorite American traditions, Thanksgiving. The “First Thanksgiving,” was celebrated at the Plymouth Plantation (in what is today Massachusetts) in 1621. It was a celebration of the Pilgrims’ first harvest, and a way of giving thanks to the Native Americans, who helped the Pilgrims survive their first year in America by teaching them how to farm and fish. The holiday was made official in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared November 26 of that year a national Thanksgiving Day, and the holiday has been celebrated annually since then.

No matter your view on the historical origins of the holiday, I think it can be said that “thankfulness” can be a universal reason to celebrate. To me, the beauty of this holiday comes from its simplicity: cooking, eating, and spending time with friends and relatives.

Like so much in America, Thanksgiving means different things to different people. There are certainly established traditions, such as eating turkey and pumpkin pie, but Thanksgiving is still left open to interpretation. While preparing for our celebration in Menton, I enjoyed hearing about different family traditions that are different from my own.

Perhaps another reason for the holiday’s popularity is the perceived “American-ness” of it. For a country that lacks many common cultural traditions, Thanksgiving feels like it is our own. This Thanksgiving was special for me because it was the first one I spent abroad, away from my family. Despite the lack of ingredients, such as canned pumpkin and the difficulty of finding a turkey, members of the SciencesPo community put together a successful meal, and inducted many members of the community into their Thanksgiving tradition.

Here are a few impressions of our celebration in Menton:
“Sciences Po Menton’s Thanksgiving was my very first hand experience of the American tradition. Coming to Menton, a campus focused on the Middle East and Mediterranean, I would have never expected to have the opportunity to experience the North American culture as well. I knew a few things about this celebration only by watching movies,but now that I lived it in real life I understood why it is so important in the US: because it makes you feel home whatever your nationality is. It was nice to be American for a night!”
–Stefania D’Ignoti, Italy

“A bunch of people from all over the world celebrating an American holiday in a town on the French Riviera. That’s what I call globalization at its finest”
–Simon Martz, Germany

“Thanksgiving was really wonderful because we got to experience, first-hand, a completely new tradition that most of us were not familiar with in real life. That’s the beauty of studying abroad and living with people from a million different places; you get to share things like this in the real atmosphere. Food and friends – that’s as good as it can get anyway. Plus, it was a truly nice and cozy feeling to see how everyone is so close to one another here now. I had never felt before how much of a community we became in such a short time, and Thanksgiving reminded me of this.”
–Ceylan Inan, Turkey

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