Hag Hodayah Sameach! My Thanksgiving of Firsts.

Happy Thanksgiving! ūüôā

This Thanksgiving is my…

first Thanksgiving in Israel.

first Thanksgiving away from my mom.

first Thanksgiving with Jews.

first kosher (non-dairy) Thanksgiving.

first Thanksgiving spent working.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, not only because of the food but because of the overall spirit of family and joy. Now that I have to add Jewish holidays into the mix, I am not quite sure if it is still my favorite but no doubt that it is up there. I love the food, the weather, the family, the feeling of gratitude, and the football. My mom always hosts Thanksgiving and this year was no exception. The cousins, aunts and uncles who usually attend were all there. There were about 45 family members total, but still some people were missing this year, including my grandfather who passed away at the end of the summer. I did miss seeing my family, but the excitement and novelty of Thanksgiving in Israel was enough to keep me from being homesick.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving day, I had to come into work. It was strange to not have Thanksgiving off, but luckily it was a short and slow day. I spent the majority of my time sitting in the office watching Thanksgiving sitcom specials on Netflix. I did multiple episodes of How I Met Your Mother, King of the Hill, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier and even an episode of Rugrats to bring back childhood memories. That evening I went to eat Thanksgiving Dinner along with other students in my program at the Deputy Ambassador’s house. It was great to see friends from my program, but the event felt much more like any other dinner rather than Thanksgiving. ¬†The formality of the evening just didn’t make it feel like Thanksgiving.¬†I have to admit that after my excitement for the event, I was let down from the lack of Thanksgiving cheer.

On Friday, my adviser was hosting Thanksgiving at her home. She was having 35 people over for dinner a Thanksgiving themed Shabbat dinner. As soon as I walked in the home, it smelled, looked and felt like Thanksgiving. The food was all traditional but kosher. Everything was so delicious that I didn’t notice there wasn’t butter in my mashed potatoes or dairy milk in my cornbread. I didn’t know any of the guests before the dinner except for my adviser and her husband. The guest list was very eclectic, and I enjoyed everyone’s company. There were only three people from the U.S. (Minnesota, California, and Texas). Other countries represented at the dinner were South Africa, Ethiopia, China, Germany, Argentina, England, Holland and Israel. The mix of languages at the table was inspiring. ¬† That dinner felt like Thanksgiving.¬†¬†All the traditional Thanksgiving foods were there, including pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and cornbread, but more importantly, her house filled with about 35 of her friends all smiling and laughing together.

Even though my Thanksgiving ended up being a day late and being shared with people I had never met before, it was still a real Thanksgiving filled with love and thanks. I am grateful for the chance to experience such wonderful holiday feelings so far from my family.

I know Christmas will be harder, but at least I know holidays away from family are possible.

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