When it comes to Thanksgiving abroad, there are certain things you can't really recoup: no Macey's Day Parade with its huge inflatable cartoon characters and no college or professional football games on TV. But with a little imagination, you can still capture some of the excitement of Thanksgiving by preparing Thanksgiving decorations.
Thanksgiving seems to be one of those holidays that relies more on "scents" than on "visuals". Don't ask me why. Maybe it's because of all the different things being prepared to eat. We add to it by decorating with several potpourri items - candles and herbs and things. We usually go for a hike and come back loaded with craft items like acorns, and colored leaves and flowers. All items we can decorate with in one way or another.
There's no limit to what you can create. I start with the turkey itself. My daughter and I create a kind of pilgrim costume for the big bird. These types of Thanksgiving decorations involves a pilgrim "collar and bib" cut out of brown and white construction paper, and "boots" that slip over the turkey legs. Now obviously these Thanksgiving decorations are attached after the bird is taken out of the oven, and shortly before it's put on the table.
While my daughter and I are tending to dressing the turkey, my wife usually creates a centerpiece for the table. She tries to make the table look "thanksgiving-ish" by using a table cloth with fall colors. We have found little pilgrim napkins on the internet. But each year it's something different. Her thanksgiving decorations last year included a "horn of plenty". She picked up a woven horn-shaped basket and then proceeded to stuff it full of nuts and fruit and other Thanksgiving-related items. This year she's using candles and dried flowers and things and I hope it all doesn't go up in smoke when we it gets lit.
A lot of the thanksgiving decorations we create tend to be handcraft items that give my daughter something to do. For example, we purchased a bag of Styrofoam balls and some colored cloth and made these little pilgrim figures. The balls are used as the head and it's pretty easy to cut out the clothes and make little bodies.
I think the big challenge about coming up with suitable Thanksgiving ideas is that Thanksgiving doesn't have a special character attached to it. For example, Christmas has Santa Claus and Easter has the Easter bunny. But Thanksgiving doesn't have a central figure. Sure there are pilgrims. But you don't have a specific character that you identify with. So a lot of times our thanksgiving ideas turn to food. Pumpkin pie, stuffing, cranberries and sweet potatoes all take a prominent place on our table and all speak loudly of the festive occasion of Thanksgiving.
Plus, Thanksgiving kind of ushers in the Christmas holiday season so we "cheat' a bit with our thanksgiving decorations and put out a few wreathes and garlands and things that will stay put through the month of December.
Like I mentioned before, living abroad you lose certain holiday mainstays, but with a little creativity you can foster a holiday atmosphere - in this case Thanksgiving - that will make you feel like you never left home.