Thanksgiving in Denmark

(To reference Dr. Seuss and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

It came without America, it came without turkey.

It came without fancy china, extended family, or wiggly cranberry.

But Thanksgiving is for being Thankful and Thankful we were,
 Our little family, some friends, a table, a prayer.

Thanksgiving is one of those uniquely American holidays…since it is seen as a time to commemorate the Pilgrims and the Indigenous Peoples’ first successful harvest together in America, that should come as no surprise.



The most important part (IMO) though, the “being thankful” part, translates pretty well.  Jeffrey’s teacher even had his class go around and say one thing they were thankful for, in observation of the holiday and I thought that was pretty awesome.

Thanksgiving, as traditionally celebrated in the United States, with its particular emphasis on traditional food, becomes rather difficult to celebrate in Denmark.  American Expats living here begin months in advance working diligently to acquire the necessary ingredients.




What was once a simple trip to the local grocery store becomes a treasure hunt of epic proportions.  We American Expats use our social networking connections to pass along hints and encouragement:  Bilka has canned pumpkin!  I spotted evaporated milk at the Meny!  Ask your local butcher if he can order you a turkey ;).  You’re gonna have to make your crusts from scratch, but homemade tastes so much better, you can do it!

For the culinarily-talented among us, it creates a chance to stretch and showcase cooking skills:  Just buy fresh cranberries!  You’re only 10-20 steps away from an authentic and extra-tasty sauce!

For me, who never really ate turkey, much less the cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce was worth purchasing canned for $1.50 for the simple purpose of looking “Thanksgiving-y”, with all its can-imprinted jiggliness. However, if I’m gonna have to drive all around searching for fresh cranberries and then go through some strange rigmarole involving gelatin and candy thermometers, then forget about it.  (Disclaimer: I actually have no idea how it’s made, maybe it really is easy.)


And then there’s the turkey.  The inspiration of child hand-print art across America.


Although less vegetarian than myself, my husband was never a huge fan of turkey, and so, since a frozen one didn’t readily present itself at any of the grocery stores that I ordinarily frequent (had I been looking for whole ducks, on the other hand, the choices would have been strangely abundant), we decided to do a traditional meat loaf instead.


So our Thanksgiving dinner was unorthodox, and yet still very American:

Meatloaf, homemade yeast rolls, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and pumpkin pie, of course. (Yes I might skip on the turkey, but not the pumpkin pie–I’m not a complete heretic 😉 )


I will say that being forced to make my own crust for said pie, I was reminded quite acutely of why I have been buying them refrigerated/frozen for the last several years.  The overall pie results were tasty (Hallelujah!), but not very pretty.  I am going to blame part of my troubles on the fact that at the time I had no mixer, only one mixing bowl,  was using a can of coconut milk as a rolling pin, and substituting a tinfoil cake pan for an actual pie pan.


Not sure what to blame for why the dough itself was dry and unwieldy though… 🙂



My husband and I have spent the last 10 Thanksgivings with his family in Colorado.  It was quite traditional:  large meal, large family.  The spread involved a giant turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, cranberry sauce, and a minimum of eight pies.  It was a day to share with family, and we are missing having them around us, especially for the holidays.


S0 this year it felt appropriate to invite others to share our meal with us, after all, surely sharing is an important part of Thanksgiving.  We were fortunate to find some friends willing to brave some new cuisine–they found some of it a bit strange, but gave it a thumbs up in the end :).   (No pictures of our actual food, sorry.  I was busy living, and also it wasn’t that pretty, I promise.)


And since this is a “Thanksgiving” post, I’ll indulge myself and end with my personal thoughts on gratitude.  (Definitely not trying to be preachy–this concept is something that I have lots of room for improvement with myself, so just sharing ideas on what I think about and strive for.)


I believe that the experience of happiness (and enabling it in others) is the purpose of life.  And when I say happiness, or joy, I translate it as “contentment”.  No one, not even the most serotonin-blessed of us humans can expect to be brimming with good cheer and laughing with the “fun-ness” of it all 100% or even 75% of the time.  Nor can there be anyone who can expect to avoid unhappiness (sadness, trials, tragedy), 100% of the time in this mortal existence.  But, if we imperfect humans can be “content” a healthy 75% of the time, then life is good–we are lucky.  It is worth being grateful for that really-quite-good existence.


 And in turn, how does one find such happiness a.k.a contentment?  Well it’s well-established that gratitude leads to it. The active process of acknowledging what we have to be thankful for invites feelings of happiness and reminds us of all the good in our imperfect lives.  So in my personal pursuit of happiness, it is my goal (which I have not yet achieved, and which I’m sure I’ll spend a lifetime trying to accomplish) to remember that this is in large part a pursuit of a mindset and lifestyle of thankfulness.



gratitude 3


One comment

  1. I think Americans used to eat duck or goose instead of turkey… Maybe that was Christmas. Hum not sure, oh well meatloaf works too. Europeans have a hard time with our Thanksgiving tradition of gorging ourselves. Glad you had a nice Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

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