Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Greek Expat life ~ The Week of Thanks-giving

Thanksgiving Day comes by statute, once a year;
to the honest man, it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

       --Edward Sandford Martin, American journalist/editor early 1900’s

The Stone House on the Hill - Peloponnese, Greece
Being American ex pats living in the Greek Peloponnese we are often asked how we – or if we - celebrate Thanksgiving. The American one that is; the one celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving 2016
This Thanksgiving will be our third in Greece. 

In the two previous years we’ve joined with other American ex pats for home-cooked meals with a lineup of tasty dishes similar to those served back in the States. 

Here, since we are hours ahead of the United States, we don’t start the holiday by flipping on the television to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving parade wind through New York City; the opening act for American-style football which provides the rest of the day’s entertainment. 

(For those who missed earlier posts about our lifestyle, we don’t have a television. Even if we did, football games, if we could get American feeds, would have a kickoff between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. our time.)
Without Thanksgiving television traditions our celebrations with fellow American ex pats here have been centered on comradery and conversation – either tales of past Thanksgivings or tales of ex pat life -- while feasting away on what is a regular weekday for our Greek neighbors and friends.

Autumn task of making olive twig bundles for the fireplace
Tuesday afternoon while I was busy with my autumn chore of making fire-starter bundles for our fireplace from twigs of olive branches, I was thinking of my friends in the States who’d likely be cooking, traveling or decorating at a frantic pace in preparation of Thanksgiving Thursday. I suspect there is quite a contrast between my activity level and theirs.

Then Wednesday morning instead of racing between kitchen and grocery store as I would have been doing in the US life, we went for a stroll through the old part of our nearby village, Kardamyli, and surrounding olive groves.  The most cooking I did was to start a pot of soup for the evening meal.

A view of ancient Kardamyli
Holidays specific to the U.S. such as our Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving call out for celebration as they are so ingrained in our habits and culture. I can almost hear my father asking, “It would be pretty peculiar not to celebrate it, wouldn’t it?”  

Ancient Kardamyli
Yet, when the rest of our New World is going about its regular and routine business, it does seem a bit. . . well, peculiar, using my dad’s word, to be going about a celebration started in America in 1621 by pilgrims who were giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest in their New World.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November
a national holiday back in 1863. 

While researching this post I found a number of countries that have their own celebrations of  Thanksgiving including Canada (second Monday of October), Germany, Japan, Korea and Liberia. The latter, Liberia, a tiny country on the West African coast, was settled by freed slaves 1820’s – 1865 and it is thought they brought the American custom of a Thanksgiving celebration with them to the new country they founded.  

Stathi, the owner, makes dinner at the Pigi Taverna a feast any night
When you think about it, we feast quite often in Greece. An ordinary dinner eaten at one of our local tavernas is usually a feast and when gathered with friends, it always seems somewhat a celebration.  It gives rise to the idea, as the opening quote in this post suggests, that  a day of thanks giving need not be limited to a single day around these parts -- nor do feasts and celebrations.

British and American ex pats celebrate Easter 2018
While the Greeks don’t have a specific day labeled as Thanksgiving, they do have a word that sums it up:
Thayer's Greek Lexicon:

1) to be grateful, feel thankful
2) give thanks

An autumn sunset from The Stone House on the Hill
This year we are doing it differently. No planned ex pat gatherings. No home cooked meals. Frankly, we don’t know where or what we will eat on ‘Thanksgiving’ Thursday. The unknown destination  and undecided route are among the joys of 'living differently'. (We do know it is supposed to be sunny and 70F-degrees, however!)

If you are among those celebrating the American Thanksgiving we send good wishes to you for a happy holiday and hope you are surrounded by family and friends!

There is also no better time than Thanksgiving to give thanks to all of you who’ve taken the time to read our tales.  We are so pleased we’ve gotten to know so many of you and look forward to meeting even more of you as our travel paths cross.

Wishes for continued safe and happy travels to you all. See you back here next week!

Linking up with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Best of Weekend


  1. I agree wholeheartedly that we do not need to limit "thanks giving" to any particular day... It's the tradition and family memories part that surrounds Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. (and elsewhere) for many, but time and circumstances change things for us all. Last Thanksgiving, we ate our turkey and dressing meal aboard a Windstar ship sailing out of Tahiti. (I also found it interesting that "eucharisteō" literally means giving thanks, so it makes sense that eucharist is used in the Catholic church to refer to the wine and bread of communion.)

    1. One of our more interesting Thanksgiving dinners was aboard Holland America as we cruised the Black Sea. Back then with assigned seating our 'family' feast was a mixed back of ethnic backgrounds and stories flowed freely. I also found the definitions of the word 'eucharisteo' of interest it does make sense with the rituals of communion.

  2. We get two Thanksgivings, the first in Canada in October and now one in the States. We recognize our October one without much fanfare, but do take a few moments to be thankful. The U.S. Thanksgiving is our traditional ceremonial celebration. We head back to the States to spend time with our good friend that looks after our condo in Bellingham while we are in our Canadian home up north. Since our last communication we have become Canadian citizens. Dual citizenship is allowed so that made it an easy decision. The only real difference is that we can now vote in elections. We's had two since our August ceremony, one for our municipal mayor and council. It felt great to finally be able to participate officially. As far as your chimney, if you burn dry wood with hot fires maybe you will be okay. After a year of burning old dry cedar deck boards from a remodel at a friend's cabin our chimney pipes didn't have very much buildup, maybe a third of a bucket in total. We didn't clean the inside pipe this year with the outside one so clean. Next year both will get a reaming out. Happy Thanksgiving from across the pond and a whole bunch of land. - Margy

    1. Sounds like the best of both worlds when it comes to holiday celebrations! Thanks so much for the holiday wishes - hope yours was a good one as well!

  3. We should all be thankful everyday. I love reading about your Greek home.

    1. I've reached the age of realizing how important each day is - so I agree totally, being thankful for it should be top of the day's to do list!!

  4. I try, with all I have, to be thankful every day...I hope I didn't take having Mr. Sweet beside me all those years for granted. I didn't mean to, if I did...I simply thought he would always be beside me...and the fastest way to stop my tears is to be thankful for having him in my life for so so long.
    Your meals with friends IS what Thanksgiving is all enjoy every minute with them...and with Joel...and I already know that you are thankful for living in Greece. Love to you.

  5. Oh BJ I think the routines and the being together you had with Mr. Sweet were never taking him (or him for you) for granted. . .it is just that pleasant feeling of being together. And we all need to remember to enjoy every minute of every day (well, at least most minutes! ;-) ) as time goes so quickly. Happy holidays to you and that Sweet family of yours!! xxx

  6. I think you are doing exactly the right thing and just enjoying Greece and not fretting about traditions. I hope you had a lovely day nonetheless and enjoyed every minute. Living in Australia I have almost given up all of my cold winter English traditions. It was hard to begin with, but it does seem silly cooking turkey and ham and roast potatoes at lunchtime when the temperature is in the 40s!

  7. You article is a good reminder that the spirit of Thanksgiving should remain in our hearts the other 364 days of the year. Thanks for this reminder and the amazing photos.

    1. And thanks Jeff and Crystal for the visit! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!

  8. Agreed,I've found holidays celebrated 'far from the madding crowd' without the burden of adhering to every tradition can be liberating, peaceful and relaxed. Kudos

    1. It is liberating and calming and certainly allows for stepping back and appreciating the day and the celebrations of the past, while forging new ones!

  9. Wherever we are on Father's Day, fir instance, we celebrate it because Bull is always with me. The same for Mother's Day. But Thanksgiving is a less universal thing.

    1. We celebrate very few of the old traditional holidays now that we are in Greece. Easter is bigger and better here than it ever was in the states and Christmas still has that wonderful family 'reason for the season' feel without the commercialism surrounding it in the States. Thanks much for your visit, Carol!

  10. Replies
    1. Ditto - I love it as well!! Happy Belated Thanksgiving!!

  11. I can see how it would be fun to celebrate American holidays with other expats, but I can also see how the longer you are gone from the US, the less important it becomes. A good word, eucharisteō!

  12. It is nice to gather with other ex pats every so often that is for sure!

  13. Eucharisteō is a perfect word! Friends and I were talking recently about how we appreciate the chance to have simpler celebrations of American holidays abroad and focus on the "comaraderie and conversation" instead of exhausting ourselves with all the decorating, cooking and other preparation. Looks like you're making new traditions of your own!


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