Thanksgiving in Albania

Thanksgiving is a pretty big holiday in my family.

We’re a far-flung group, but most people make their way back to the family vineyard in Missouri to eat, drink, and catch up on things.

I’m usually absent. Before it was a hectic work schedule. Now it’s travel.

This year I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in Saranda, Albania.

There’s not a turkey to be found in the entire country.

But my friends made Greek sausage and rice.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not practiced in Europe, and they asked me one question after another about our strange and foreign customs.

“What do you do on Thanksgiving?”

They were disappointed to learn most people just eat and watch football.

But the questions kept coming.

“What do you eat?”

“What does Turkey taste like?”

“So it’s not a religious holiday?”

“Do you give each other gifts?”

“Who were the Pilgrims?”

I was tired of answering questions and I just wanted to drink my beer, so I tried to think of the simplest explanation I could give them.

Maybe it was all the food, but I could only come up with the usual cliché:

Thanksgiving is about acknowledging why you are thankful.

As an example I explained our traditional custom of going around the table one person at a time and saying one thing we are thankful for aloud.

Finally, they understood.

“That’s a very nice holiday,” one of them said.

“We should have Thanksgiving in Albania,” said another.

Thanksgiving is a nice holiday. Despite it’s murky historical implications the modern sentiment is more than just Pilgrims and turkey.

Gratitude is free of religion, ethnicity, or language.

And by taking one day each year to express our gratitude, we force ourselves, at least momentarily, to stop and be thankful.

It feels good, doesn’t it?

I’m thankful for a life well-traveled, and for the rewards that have only come from taking risks.

But above all, I’m thankful for the people. You know who you are.

If only we could be so thankful every day.

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