Cultural Musings, Poland

Who celebrates Thanksgiving in Poland? I do.

Deep-fried turkey. Marshmallow-covered yams. Green-bean casserole. Cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie. These are just a few of the essential Thanksgiving dishes. If you’re a Pole, you may be asking WTF is casserole? (It’s like zapiekanka.) But really, why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Why do 3.6 million people fly home the day before just to eat turkey? And why is it more significant than Christmas for many Americans?

The history goes back to the 1600s when some of the first Pilgrims, celebrating a good harvest, shared a meal with a group of local native Americans…or so the story goes. Who knows what really happened. The real question is why the president “pardons” a turkey every year. What that means is that the president chooses a turkey that gets to stay alive and frolic on a farm a little longer… and then probably gets eaten a few months later. I’d like to know how he goes about choosing the right one. Anyone know where this tradition came from?

Real talk, Thanksgiving is an excellent excuse to eat until you burst. But because I live in Poland, celebrating Thanksgiving isn’t that simple. You can’t just buy a 10-lb turkey anywhere and sweet potatoes aren’t very popular either. Anyway, who, other than Americans, really cares about it? Luckily for me, one of my close friends, a Brit in fact, celebrates each year with her family at her place. She orders the turkey and we just have to show up with a side dish. Thank god for her. I’ve never made a turkey by myself and I’m not sure I have the patience to cook something for 5 hours.

Aside from eating a mound of food and falling into a food coma after (thanks in part to the chemical tryptophan which makes you sleepy), Thanksgiving is exactly for doing that… being grateful for what we have. That’s what the Pilgrims did and the tradition has stuck. At dinner, each person has to go around the table and say what they’re thankful for. True to form, it’s also good excuse for us to brag about what we accomplished during the year and we would never forego such an opportunity. On a not-so-cynical note, we can think about how we, especially as Americans, are incredibly privileged. We often overlook that fact and it’s a shame if you ask me. Now every 4th Thursday in November (and Canadians the 2nd Monday in October. Why? Canada…) we stop to think about it.

But really, what about Black Friday?! This is the 20th century addition to Thanksgiving. Contrary to what some people think, Black Friday is not a holiday, it was made up by marketers as a way to make people go shop-crazy and trample each other outside of Wal-mart. Of course the sales are good, but if you value your life, I wouldn’t recommend standing in line before the shops open just to buy a TV that’s a little cheaper. For sure everyone has seen the videos… They are a cause of extreme shame for the rest of us normal people. Kind of like the people ripping each other to shreds to buy cheaper carp in Lidl in Poland. It’s not only us, thank goodness.

The best part of Thanksgiving? Eating leftovers for a week. Then you’re so sick of turkey you don’t want to even look at it again until the next year. Then Christmas comes and you have no choice.

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  • Reply szyy 29 November 2015 at 23:23

    In case you are looking for sweet potatoes anyway, they’re in Aldi right now 🙂

    • Reply Leah Southers 30 November 2015 at 06:09

      hah thank you! They’re so expensive here compared to normal ones though.

  • Reply agnes_adv 24 February 2016 at 20:54

    I only celebrated Thanksgiving once – while I was in US – but I try to eat something thanksgivingy each year since. Why? Cause antoher reason for celebration and yummy food is never bad 🙂

    • Reply Leah Southers 24 February 2016 at 22:18

      Agnes – Yes!! What kinds of thanksgiving-y foods do you eat? I’m curious. It’s such a great holiday.

  • Reply Paul Glynn 19 November 2022 at 17:21

    Are there any restaurants or people offering Thanksgiving dinner or meal for this coming Thursday “Thanksgiving”

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 21 November 2022 at 09:55

      Hi Paul – wish I could help you but I really have no idea about that. Hope you find something!

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