thankful colorful turkeys

Thanksgiving in Sweden, round 2.

We put on a Thanksgiving again. Some of us who made the feast together last year were part of it, and some new people joined as well. This year's menu had a couple more authentic parts that we weren't able to make last year, including a pumpkin pie and real stuffing, both of which are my favorite dishes usually... although since I made both of those, they weren't quite up to par. But I suppose they did the trick. I'd actually never made anything for Thanksgiving before last year...once I was in Sweden. Amazing that even when it comes to an American holiday, Thanksgiving, my resounding theme during my time so far in Sweden continues: "this is something I have never done before."

Stuffing and a sweet potato casserole

Pumpkin pie and apple pie

What I have turned into a tradition at these Swedish Thanksgivings, and what you'll need to be prepared for if you ever come to one, is that people must color (with crayons) a hand-shaped turkey and write on the fingers what they are thankful for. Like we did as kids in America. And then we go around and share. This year, like last year, there were comical things and really quite poignant things said.

And as our turkeymaster Jonas pointed out once we were done, this year had some common themes with the things people were thankful for. The essentials of the lives of young adults, our basics, and what we all know we are very lucky to have right now considering how many do not.

Our jobs. Our apartments. Our health.

And once it was pointed out that these were recurring themes, I felt even more grateful for those things than I had been when I wrote them down. So grateful that I had them and that these people around me that I care about have them. If anything is going to be right about this season for all of us, I'm glad that those things are.

There were some things I thought about writing down on my turkey, but I didn't. Like "the unknown" as a couple people did. And "challenges". Deep down I am grateful, but I'm having more of a love/hate relationship with those two items this season. This fall I meet a lot of new people all the time, and at least a couple times a week I'm asked, "How long are you staying in Sweden?" I always answer with either a short or more lengthy version of "I don't know," since that is the case. I often think that people expect me to say some version of "a couple years, until I miss California too much"... but that would be a saying something that I actually don't say to myself. I'd rather not think about it, in fact, I would like to see what happens and evaluate things then, but since I'm such a thinker, and people always ask, this "unknown" thing sits on my mind when I'd rather just shelve it and live in the moment.

And challenges... well, I can feel that Stockholm is becoming more and more of a place where I belong, can find routine, and can feel familiar in. It feels good. But I still find myself out of my comfort zone a lot. I can feel the same look on my face that I saw sometimes in my Swedish friends' faces when they lived in California. Whether it was as they frustratingly sorted out the parking garage system, confronted ridiculous landlord and roommate situations that seemed so wrong and so not like how Sweden does it, or just sat around in a group of Americans and didn't always find the word they were looking for or find the same topic funny... I remember thinking that my life back then didn't encounter much of those out-of-comfort-zone moments. And I needed them. So I have them now and they aren't always fun or make me so happy, and therefore they didn't make it on my turkey this year.

But. I'm grateful anyway. For the challenges and the unknown. And even more so, for the people that help me through them. Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Hey! Just stumbled onto your blog and love how you write about your Swedish experience. I had a very similar Thanksgiving in Lund (I'm also an American who came here for grad school). The hand turkey tradition is pretty awesome - especially when you consider the age at which we do it in the states :)I'm very impressed by the one with the hat!

  2. My Swedish friends always get quite creative with the turkey decorating :)Cool that you happened to do it too, it is such a tradition, in fact! Glad you found the blog!


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