Project Xpat: Homage In Catalonia

Nov 25, 2013
Originally published on November 25, 2013 3:16 pm

Sometimes you carry Old Thanksgiving Traditions with you around the world; sometimes you make up Old Thanksgiving Traditions right on the spot.

Regan Watson — an American expat from San Diego now living in Barcelona, Spain — and her friends are creating a few rituals that we homelanders might want to consider.

"For years I had hosted Thanksgiving at my shared Barcelona apartment," Regan says, but "my oven was a bit too small for the 9-kilo turkey that I had to special order."

When Regan downsized to a smaller place, which did not have an oven, she was forced to innovate. She and another American expat decided to rent a larger space together and invite a passel of people to the celebration. "Little did we know," she says, "that we would end up renting a beautiful old renovated farmhouse in the Catalan countryside for a full weekend of food and festivities with about 20 friends. And that this would become a tradition."

The first year, there was a melange of Americans and non-Americans — many who had never celebrated Thanksgiving before. "To teach the newbies the traditions of this holiday," she says, "we acted out for them the story of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims — more in line with the South Park version."

Everyone around the table voiced what they were grateful for, which made some of the non-Americans squirm a bit, Regan says. "And just to mess with people. I told them that on the West Coast we have another peculiar tradition of removing your top and giving it to the person on your left to wear during the meal. It was hilarious, people bought it, including some of the East Coast Americans! We all removed our tops, and the men in women's tops made the meal a constant state of laughter. We still do this each year, as there are always newbies with us."

One of last year's highlights was when her friends hid the turkey and dropped hints here and there to "help" her find it. "Following all these funny homemade clues," she says, "I explored the entire masia until I eventually found 'Jacques' the turkey fully submerged in the bathtub, brining in his herbs."

When living abroad, Regan adds, "you learn to be creative and make the most with what you've got. And then laugh your ass off and call it tradition."

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We hope American expatriates will share photos of Thanksgiving celebrations and tables and gatherings from around the world. Please send them to us on Thanksgiving Day — and over the long holiday weekend — at protojournalist@npr.org or post them using the hashtag #nprexpat. We will display as many as we can.

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