Celebrating a Very American Thanksgiving in Germany

This Thanksgiving was the fourth Thanksgiving I’ve spent living abroad, far away from my family and the traditions I grew up with. Far away from Turkey trots, canned cranberry sauce and anything resembling a pumpkin pie. Every year abroad I’ve made some kind of lackluster attempt at replicating Thanksgiving – a turkey burger one year, a cranberry cocktail at a conference last year, a sad attempt at a pumpkin pie in which I forgot the sugar (mmm let’s not talk about that one). It’s not that I’m not grateful to live abroad (because I am so so grateful), but it can be difficult to spend most major holidays feeling like you are missing out. However, this year was different. This year I celebrated American Thanksgiving in Germany, with my childhood best friend who flew all the way from Michigan! It was one I will never forget.


Feeling thankful for lifelong friendships…

Mary and I have known each other since a fateful homecoming parade one Autumn in elementary school, during which she thought I hated her. In freshman year of high school we were in choir together, and the literally nine years of Mary thinking I hated her quickly disappeared. We became good friends. Good friends who transitioned to best friends. I count myself extremely lucky that I’m still close, close even seems like an understatement, with my group of friends from high school. What we have is weird and uncommon and downright ridiculous. This tight knit group of friends that has lasted over so many years is another item on my roster of gratefulness each year.

Each friendship is unique and special, though, and one thing that binds Mary and I is this idealist imagination of future adventures. I can remember walking down the beach together on our senior year spring break, spouting off about kayaking the gulf of Mexico together. There is always some far-fetched adventure in the works between us, and although they often remain imaginary, a fair few have come true. Mary was my only friend to visit me at my tiny Ohioan college, she flew to Exeter when I studied abroad, traveled to Florida with me (twice!), flew (again) to England to visit me in Plymouth, and so many other adventures in between. So when she texted me last month saying “Do you want to meet in Germany for Thanksgiving?” Well it took me about five minutes to say YES.

I am grateful for friends who imagine adventures with me. Friends who take action on their imagination. Friends to experience this amazing world with.

Feeling thankful for adventures…

However, I think one thing that has become clear through writing this post is that the adventure isn’t so much in the place you are, but the person you are with. Celebrating American Thanksgiving in Germany wasn’t the reason I will remember this Thanksgiving for years to come – rather it was experiencing Germany alongside my childhood friend.

Not that I wasn’t grateful to be in Germany, I mean look at those picnic views…

And the lovely company we had with us 😉

Feeling thankful together…

This Thanksgiving I was grateful to zoom out of Munich on a clean, cheap train. To hike up a red-leaved, woodland path. To marvel at Neuschwanstein Castle… from the famous “Mary’s Bridge” no less 😉 To scramble up a boulder covered, tree root woven hillside.

For cold wind and clear skies and lakes to remind us of Michigan. For snow-peaked Alps, but moreso someone with so much infectious enthusiasm for snow-peaked Alps.

For strangers who take good photos. For camembert cheese, long green grapes, a small jar of olives, a gluten free seeded baguette, Lidl chocolate, salami, plastic knives, and a mountain to eat them on. For phone service to message our families back home.

For being healthy, for a roof and a bed and a country I can call home and many other countries who accept me. For knowing and loving passionate, smart, caring people, and having them love me back. For education and travel and so many chances at independence and sharing the world, my world, with all of you.

Each minute may be of equal length, but time doesn’t remain equal after it occurs. Most small moments are forgotten. Others expand until they take up large parts of our memories, our lives, and eventually our identities. This Thanksgiving was one of those unequally expansive times.

I hope you all celebrated in style, wherever you are in the world. I would love to know what you are grateful for this year in the comments.

Sarah xx


**Oh also, this is at Neuschwanstein Castle outside Munich. We loved this blog post by The Traveling Spud, and this blog post by the Wallet Diet which helped us figure out how to buy tickets etc. I think I will write my own post on our hiking adventures at Neuschwanstein Castle if you guys would find that useful?!? Lemme know!!

 **This post is part of the monthly travel linkup on the topic: Festivities. Hosts are Adventures of a London KiwiSilverSpoon LondonFollow Your Sunshine and guest host Zoe from The ZRW!

Looking for more?


  1. “Each minute may be of equal length, but time doesn’t remain equal after it occurs.”- I love this quote, Sarah. Glad you got to have some Midwest company for Thanksgiving ??

  2. Wow – four Thanksgivings away from home! This holiday season might be my last one in the US for awhile, so I’m trying to savor everything. I was away for Easter and 4th of July this year and that was hard enough. It’s so nice that your friend could come to visit!

    I tried baking a sugar-free chocolate pie this year and it probably turned out similar to your pumpkin one. I’m going to give up trying to be healthy for Thanksgiving, it’s not worth the struggle. 🙂

    1. Yeah it sounds like a lot looking back on it! I’ve always spent Christmas with family so I think that would be the most difficult one for me to miss out on personally! Good luck with your move, wherever it is to, I’m sure you’ll make some new holiday traditions like I have 😉

  3. “Each minute may be of equal length, but time doesn’t remain equal after it occurs. Most small moments are forgotten. Others expand until they take up large parts of our memories, our lives, and eventually our identities.” – this quote Sarah – so so poignant & beautiful!
    I’m so glad you had a lovely thanksgiving! This year, I am grateful for so many things, family, friends, a safe warm home, a job that gives me opportunities to do what I love, cheese, good food, and so many other things that I feel so grateful for and remind myself every day that I am so lucky to live this life! I love that America has a whole holiday dedicated to gratitude 🙂

  4. Happy Thanksgiving! That is really sweet that you two are still friends and meet up in foreign places. I could barely get my high school friends to visit me when I went home from being abroad–from one hour away. *sigh* But I have also learned that sometimes you just have to be the one to reach out, and if that doesn’t work then you let people go. See, you’re right! What you guys have is rare. I’m glad that you were able to connect.

    I am thankful for: my boyfriend, my dog, our apartment, Denver, having a job that gives me hope for the future, holding onto dreams of moving abroad again someday, family, the ability to make it to my parents’ wedding in Oregon and to visit my boyfriend’s family in Chicago in December, and so much more.

    1. Yeah I think that’s super common! And that’s how it was with most of my high school friends, but not this little group 🙂 I feel so lucky!

      That’s such a nice and positive way to put it… holding onto dreams of moving abroad again someday. Rather than feeling stuck in the present moment. You have lots to be thankful for!!

  5. Such a special thanksgiving! It’s always hard to miss out on celebrations when living abroad so these special ones are just extra magical! I loveeee the cut out of your friends – that really is the best idea!! 😀
    Funnily enough, I had never celebrated thanksgiving until living in Chile and now I’ve celebrated it two years in a row 🙂

    1. Exactly – I think missing so many has made the ones that I *really* celebrate that much more special. And yeah…. cut out credit goes entirely to Mary hahaha, but it was so much fun positioning them through the hike and taking soooo many photos ;P

  6. You look so happy in these photos!! I am so glad that you had such a wonderful time with your friend. This year, I am grateful to have Nick home, for our military family who spent Thanksgiving with us, for our home, for our health, for our live in Hawaii.

  7. That looks absolutely like a Thanksgiving to remember – sometimes the non-traditional ones are the best ever :)) I love your little picnic and the great views you had at Neuschwanstein! I went also in November (eep, 10 years ago now, weird) and it was SO FOGGY we couldn’t see a thing…. all misty and white. That sounds romantic but I can assure you, I’d rather have the views. Great photos and story as always!

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