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Thanksgiving to go

Preparing for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I delved into the Spouse Calls archive for a remembrance of past celebrations. Five years ago, while stationed in Germany, I wrote about the various ways our military friends celebrated this American holiday worldwide.

Some were sharing the traditional feast with servicemen and women in dining halls. Others were planning trips to foreign cities, taking advantage of the school break and an overseas assignment. The friends who contributed to this column have moved on to celebrate in many other places, but no doubt military families are still carrying on some of these unconventional traditions.

Here are excerpts from Spouse Calls, Nov. 22, 2008:

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a turkey-sandwich tailgate party at a roadside park en route to Prague, Czech Republic. We traveled with two other families and spent the long weekend enjoying the blessings of friendship.

We saw the sights of a beautiful city, laughed until our sides ached over tourist misadventures and hotel-room games of “Balderdash,” then ushered in the Advent season at the market in the Old Town Square.

This year we’ll return to the more traditional way to eat turkey — with dressing and pumpkin pie in our own dining room. We can’t always share holiday meals with our relatives, but military families do dish up some wonderful memories.

Over lunch the other day, some of my friends were discussing their Thanksgiving plans for this year. One is traveling to Italy. Some are cooking the traditional feast and traded advice on how to baste a turkey. A couple more said they’ll serve meals to troops at the chow hall.

I also heard from some military spouses via email, each with their own twist on Thanksgiving.

“In Australia, we have started a tradition where we invite everyone we know to a potluck on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, since most of us have to work on Thursday,” said Tammy.

“We provide the turkeys, and everyone else brings the rest. On average, we usually have about a hundred people, including kids,” she said. “For most Aussies, Thanksgiving is such a movie novelty.

“We were getting so many questions from them about the origin of the holiday that we now print off a one-page history and hand it out to any of the new people,” Tammy said. “Now, we have people asking us every year, ‘When’s Thanksgiving at your house again?’”

For some families, the lure of travel on a long weekend is irresistible.

“Thanksgiving is a great time to take a family vacation: No crowds,” said Cindy. “We have kayaked in the waters surrounding Hilton Head and then had chicken noodle soup for our dinner.

“Disney World and Epcot were another location — walked the beaches near Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida; enjoyed the fall colors in Williamsburg, Virginia; converged on the mountaintop in Pinetop, Arizona, cutting our live tree down on the way home in the snow; savored the Indian food in London,” Cindy said.

Diane said she and her family combined the best of both worlds: travel and an improvised Thanksgiving meal.

“When we lived in Tucson, Arizona, we decided a four-day weekend was a good time to visit the Grand Canyon,” she said.

“We booked a room at a suite that included a fridge and microwave.  I made the (dishes) ahead of time and brought them … in a cooler.  I got Thanksgiving-themed paper plates and napkins and brought a Thanksgiving tablecloth, which we put on the coffee table in our room. So we had turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce, the works.”

Of course, many of us have spent a holiday in a hotel room under much less festive circumstances, in the middle of a PCS, for example. But even those odd celebrations — by chance rather than by choice — might yield a harvest of memories and new reasons to be thankful.

However you spend Thanksgiving this year — on the road, at home, in transit, deployed or serving troops in the chow hall — when it comes to blessings, may you enjoy “the works.”

Join the conversation and share your voice.

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About the Author

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three living in Illinois. She writes "Spouse Calls" weekly for Stars and Stripes and is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life. Leave comments on the blog or write to her at spousecalls@stripes.com.


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