Not Home for the Holidays

It’s like being invited to a party that you never thought you’d be asked to, living in a country other than the one you originally called home. It is getting to eat things that would never have been on your table, dancing to an unfamiliar tune with steps you do not know. Discovering another culture from the inside is like unwrapping a big package, one that takes you ages and ages, and is layered with surprises.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to embrace someone else’s celebration and make it your own. Pancake Tuesday never happened in the home I grew up in. It’s an event in mine now, and is a lovely little light in the long darkness between New Year’s and St Patrick’s Day. We eat stacks of crepes, with a little lemon squeezed over and some caster sugar sprinkled on top (or bananas and nutella – yum!). Nothing big, no production, but it needs to be marked as we head into the season of reflection that is Lent (something else not really noticed in my non-Catholic upbringing, but very noticed where I am now). And Paddy’s Day! It is marked with real shamrock, a day off work and Lent, enthusiastic wearing of green, and not a pinch within reach.


But sometimes the delights of home, those traditions you loved as a kid, or in fact still love, get a bit lost or neglected. It can be hard to celebrate Canada Day when you’re the only one: it needs a full community with red and white and Mounties and maple syrup to celebrate.

A friend in British Columbia is hosting 26 for dinner this Thanksgiving but guess what? She’s not doing all the cooking! When everyone around is also celebrating, it is much easier to come together and share it all. She has people bringing the potatoes, vegetables, and dessert, and I’ll bet they’ll arrive in with much more than that. An American friend in Dublin cooked the most elaborate Thanksgiving dinner every year for friends but eventually gave it up as it was just so much work.

Thanksgiving was one of those holidays that just got shuffled away in my first years in Ireland. It’s not the same when you don’t have a long weekend, and years ago I couldn’t even buy a turkey in October. But because I want my children to experience something of what I did as a kid and give them a sense of the other culture that is part of the fabric of their lives, I’ve made it our tradition with a tweak: a Sunday afternoon dinner with a couple of friends and a menu that’s not too elaborate but enough to make it special.

This year, I’ll be cooking the turkey breast in my slow cooker, hopefully making everything a bit easier. We have a Canadian-Irish family joining us, so there will be a bit of banter around the table. I’ll bring out my linen tablecloth with the pilgrims and baskets of squash and we’ll light the candles.

I’m thankful for traditions and the opportunity to embrace some new ones. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, whether you’re celebrating it or not!


October Weekend Menu

Glazed turkey breast with Nolan’s traditional Cranberry Orange Stuffing

Irish potatoes: roasted and mash, with turkey jus

Roasted root vegetables

Green beans tossed with butter and flaked almonds

Harvest Pumpkin Pie 

Caramel Topped Pear Pie

Wines, tea and coffee included


2 thoughts on “Not Home for the Holidays

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