Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a turkey-sandwich tailgate party at a roadside park enroute 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 e-mail, 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 Ven Dange, stationed Down Under.

"We provide the turkeys, and everyone else brings the rest. On average, we usually have about a hundred people, including kids," Tammy said.

"For most Aussies, Thanksgiving is such a movie novelty that they love to come just to tell us that it’s their first, or second or third time."

"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," she 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 MacKenzie, stationed in Germany.

"We have kayaked in the waters surrounding Hilton Head and then had chicken noodle soup for our dinner," she said.

"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 and this year we will be taking it all in Roman style," Cindy said.

Diane Wido, stationed in Texas, 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. But even those odd celebrations — by chance rather than by choice — may yield a harvest of memories and new reasons to be thankful.

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

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives, writes and will celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany. Contact her at and see the Spouse Calls blog at

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now