Celebrating American Holidays in a Foreign Land






As Americans, every year, we look forward to holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving.


Halloween is a time when we witness horror, grotesque items for entertainment. When we were young, we would go out trick-or-treating, in other words, go from door to door asking for sweet treats. Now that we are older, we give out treats but many of us still love to dress us as characters. In the US, around late October, one would see the streets and houses in the neighborhood decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons, witches and other fascinating objects. The festive spirit of Halloween signal the start of the holiday season that would follow.

However, here in Germany, Halloween is not as popular. In the recent years, the holiday has gained some more recognition because of American movies and TV shows. However, one would not generally not find him or herself standing on a street with glowing plastic skulls and jack-o-lanterns. At first, the lack of decorations for Halloween made me feel a little homesick. Personally, Halloween is my favorite holiday because one can be as creative as possible with costumes, makeup, hair, etc. I love the abundance of the pumpkin-flavored items in bakeries and coffee shops as they signal that the festive season would begin.

So naturally, when I observed that there was a lack of these items here in Munich, I would not be able to enjoy myself fully. Turns out, I was extremely wrong. I did not need a fancy costume or a flavored coffee to enjoy a holiday. I spent Halloween night in a plain black t-shirt and celebrated it with my friends. I was able to appreciate the change of seasons by observing nature as the leaves changed colors.  It made me realize that one does not need material objects to enjoy a tradition. What matters is what you decide to make of a situation.


Thanksgiving is only an American/Canadian holiday because the history behind it is that when Pilgrims had their first autumn harvest with the “help” of Native Americans. Obviously this is a very controversial history and living in foreign country where the locals don’t celebrate the holiday forced me to learn more about it. My study abroad group, among ourselves and a few of our German friends, did prepare a Thanksgiving dinner together.

Once again, it reminded me what the holidays should really be about. They should make one focus on the time one spends with his or her family, friends and loved ones; not on the material possessions. I am also really happy that we invited a few of our German friends as they got an opportunity to experience an American tradition. This dinner made me realize what I am really thankful for: the people I care about, this foreign country I am now starting to call home, and the awesome adventures I am experiencing.