November 29, 2013


It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say I've been spending the last few weeks of my life dedicated to convincing all my friends here that Thanksgiving is like, a big deal. The Swedes don't really have a comparable holiday. Christmas is really important to them, of course, and probably next up is Midsummer. But missing out on a Midsummer holiday with your family is maybe about as disheartening as being away for the 4th of July in the States: sad, but it can be overlooked. Missing Thanksgiving, however, feels more like I'm stuffing my childhood with garlic and regret, burning it in the oven, and tossing it out into a snowbank. (I'm sure someone has done that to a turkey, right?)

Speaking of turkeys, can't find any here. It's hard to say if that's because they don't eat very much turkey in Sweden (that's probably true; when do Americans eat turkey besides on Thanksgiving?) or because I'm in a tiny one-reindeer town with two small grocery stores. Either way, I reconciled myself to buying a full roasting chicken for the occasion and calling it good. Canned cranberry also proved difficult to track down, so I thought I might replace that with lingonberries, a classic Swedish side that is relatively similar. But instead, clever girl that I am, I ended up throwing some dried cranberries into the stuffing. As most of you know by now, pumpkin is also out of the running. But whatever, I think I lose a million American points because I don't like pie anyway. I figured I'd be happier making an apple crisp.

The next bump in the road was discovering that NBC doesn't do any online streaming of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade online. (!!!) Turns out you actually do have to watch it on cable television. In America. There is an "Earthcam" on Times Square that streams the footage without commentary, but a visit to their website only yielded the disheartening announcement that the parade wasn't coming through Times Square this year. The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade does do a live stream with announcers... but seriously, the Philly parade is also known as the "6abc/Dunkin Donuts" parade. That just sounds like disappointment waiting to happen. I tuned in for like, two minutes to the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, but I'm guessing I was probably the only one.

My Thanksgiving morning started off with with doing what any red-blooded American would do in my situation: skipping school. Not only that, but I stayed holed up in my room watching the Season 2 finale of AMC's The Killing. Nothin' like a good crime to get me in the holiday spirit. I made a guest appearance at the cafeteria for an early lunch of vegetarian lasagna. A couple of my friends remembered to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, which was sweet. Afterwards, I consulted my list of open tabs on the computer to see what ingredients I would need for dinner and made what turned out to be a rather dangerous trek to the grocery store. Snow came to Vindeln a couple weeks ago, but the temperatures haven't been stable, so everything has turned into really slick ice with a layer of meltyslush on the top. In other words, I didn't stand a chance.

I almost-fell probably half a dozen times before I'd even gone half the way. The real fall finally happened just after I'd crossed the street near the pharmacy. I'm pretty sure a car stopped to make sure I was okay (and/or laugh at me) before moving on. But in spite of the dangers, it was nice to take a little winter walk alone. It was about 2:00pm, which means I got to witness the sunset that was happening right at that time. We now have only about five hours of daylight, and those hours are narrowing every day until the winter solstice. 

My first stop was to Coop, a huge chain of co-op grocery stores in Sweden, where I found most of what I needed. Minus sweet potatoes. What the heck? My family is more fond of the traditional mashed potatoes, but I think any holiday dinner I'm in charge of needs to feature sweet potatoes. It's just who I am, guys. So I trudged over to ICA, the other grocery store in town, with a backpack and two grocery bags full of Thanksgiving fare. I was able to find sweet potatoes there, along with some fresher fennel than what had been available at Coop. I headed home on the slick ice, this time bogged down by all of my dinner supplies. It reminded me of the many times I made treacherous walks across BYU campus with a precarious stack of books almost as tall as I am. Though there were a number of near-misses, I managed to make it back to the dorm without any embarrassing spills.

I did most of the cooking by myself to the soundtrack of my "Best Christmas Ever" playlist on Spotify. Jenny came to keep me company and Linus did his usual chore of peeling potatoes. (I have to admit, I hope I always have someone in my life who is willing to do that thankless task for me.) On the menu was a roasted chicken stuffed with lemon, garlic, and fresh thyme (recipe here), mashed sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon, green beans sauteed with bacon, and an apple-cranberry stuffing (recipe here). I bought a fancy champagney soda for the occasion (they have a lot of those here) and we lit candles all around the living room before sitting down to the meal.

I started off with a prayer in Swedish, then Jenny and Linus both took turns listing three things they were grateful for. To be honest, it was about as close to perfect as you can ask a Thanksgiving-away-from-home to be. We played some classy old jazz music in the background (playlist here) and enjoyed the bounty that was ours. Philip joined us for a Skype chat, and later Agnes and Lova came to the party. Everyone seemed to love the food, though they were all completely mystified as to what stuffing was and hesitant to try it. Come to find, it's kind of hard to explain why mashing up bread with melted butter and sundry vegetables and herbs would actually be delicious. But it is! It is!

My friends were sweet enough to do clean-up duty. I was too bushed to make any dessert, so we enjoyed some gingerbread cookies and milk that I had bought as back-up. We started watching "While You Were Sleeping" all together before my family called on Skype. And what a much-needed blessing it was to see their faces, hear their voices, and remember the pandemonium of a Wilson family Thanksgiving. My Swedish friends got to say hi to some of my relatives, and I think it was then that they realized how big a family holiday Thanksgiving really is. I was beginning to realize it even more deeply myself. I stayed up past midnight having a much-needed catch-up session with my sister Sarah and afterwards fell asleep more happy and exhausted than I've been in a while.

Today, I'm grateful that Swedesgiving wasn't a total disasternot even closeand that I seem to always find people to celebrate (and celebrate with) where'er I roam.

The bird

Me and the bird

Linus (unawares) with the other dinner accoutrements

Lova and Agnes

Jenny and me

1 comment:

  1. Hey--my comment didn't post!! I hate recreating comments! OK, let's see...I said I thought your Swedesgiving was a success and that our Thanksgiving here at home was perfectly wonderful. We were so happy to be able to visit with you via Skype, and when it turned into your late-night chat with Sarah, we actually thought she was downstairs napping. Grandpa said the Thanksgiving prayer, and in his words it was an altogether "Murpy Thanksgiving"! Now the countdown to your coming home for Christmas! Love, Moo