Saudi Arabia/America: What is YOUR Thanksgiving?

American Bedu extends Happy Thanksgiving greetings to all who celebrate and spend this day in recognition of thanks and gratefulness.  I am going to share a personal story of Thanksgiving with readers and then conclude this post with a question of my own.

I believe that as Americans when we think of Thanksgiving, the first thought is of food, lots of food.  For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to gather around the table and break bread together in thanks with lots of other delectable food to choose from as well.  When I was working as a diplomat in Pakistan I became close friends with a wonderful Pakistani family.  Early in our friendship I extended an invitation to the family for a traditional American dinner at my home.  They eager accepted my invite.  Now to me, a traditional American dinner with new (or old) friends is similar to hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if the guests are first time dinner guests and I want them to feel most welcomed.  So when my new Pakistani friends arrived at my home I had prepared a turkey, dressing, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and other side dishes.  My friends enjoyed the meal and we all ate heartily. However I could tell by the looks on their faces that the Thanksgiving meal was not what they expected.  Finally as we were relaxing over dessert of pumpkin pie and chocolate mousse, I asked them outright on their expectations of a meal.  After an abashed look and some prompting on my part, I was told that they were actually expecting to be served traditional American burgers and fries for that is what they believed was America’s national meal!

Towards sharing and understanding each other’s practices and traditions better, what is your traditional meal?  How is it prepared and served?  For American’s celebrating Thanksgiving, how is it celebrated?

For me, Thanksgiving is not only about food.  It is a time to reflect on what one is thankful for and what is really important in life.  With the roller coaster of events in my own life just this past year, I do have much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for each blessed day God allows me to live and rejoice.  I am thankful for the family given to me and being a part of each of their lives.  I am thankful for their love, compassion, care and support.  I am thankful to be reunited with my cats!  I am thankful for the good health my family members enjoy.  I am thankful for all the loving friends who are a part of my life.

My Thanksgiving day is spent with family.  We all contribute to the meal whose centerpiece showcase is the golden brown succulent turkey.  Everyone brings their best and favorite dish to the table.  The table groans with the weight of all the dishes that have been prepared with loving hands.  We all eat until we are stuffed and then enjoy each other’s company.  Talk is usually full of memories of what all we have to be thankful for and a reminder never to take life for granted.


13 Responses

  1. Great post. How cute that they expected burgers and fries! 😀 Our day is somewhat like yours. We are going to my sister’s house and several of us are contributing to the meal. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. We will have dinner at 4:00. Usually we have guests. For the last ten years or so we have had an elderly widowed member of our community. Every year we think it will be her last as she is so old and frail. Now she is 99 but has once again agreed to try to come.

    Dinner is the very traditional turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce. We always make TONS of pies all the traditional ones ie apple, pumpkin, mincemeat and then I usually do one or two that are different ie pear with anise, yam cream cheese or something else experimental that I find online or in a cookbook. We have a well thumbed pie cook book that I think my mom got when I was a kid. We still use it.

    I love thanksgiving. It can not be commercialized and its focus is simple: family, friends and a meal. The prayer before the meal is very important to us My dad starts it and then asks everyone to contribute.

  3. Annie – you have my mouth watering for any one of the pies!!

  4. I do the traditional Thanksgiving meal and my husband has finally stopped asking if I’m not sure that sometimes people have lamb for Thanksgiving. He also calls pumpkin pie “vegetable pie”! Because it isn’t an actual holiday here- we sometimes have to swap the day around. Since we don’t celebrate Christmans- I have co-opted gingerbread cookies into Thanksgiving. Why not?

  5. Saudis sure do love their lamb! Although I have never acquired a taste for lamb myself I finally did learn to prepare it in different ways and dishes for my husband. It was a regular part of his diet.

    I like the idea of incorporating the gingerbread cookies into Thanksgiving. It was nice with Thanksgiving always on a Thursday that worked well in Saudi. Unlike other countries I had been in during Thanksgiving time, I knew the day would not be a workday in KSA.

  6. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October and it is not as big as it is in the USA. Still, families do get together and often it will be ham rather than turkey that is served. 🙂

  7. As a Muslim, “Thanksgiving” is everyday. The holiday does, however, give us some time to spend with friends and family.

    What are we doing? We are having a bunch of friends over to our place Saturday. It is going to be a good old fashioned American turkey meal, mixed with Middle Eastern foods and desserts. Food is just an excuse for good talk and good times. It is the “craic” we are after, as the Irish would say.

  8. Carol, Happy Thanksgivng…and to all here too.
    We used to read the Prolcamation, have around 25 guests with ocourse lots of food. Unlike many though, we begin our meal at 5 or 6pm. Normally would take a long walk before the big feast.
    Thse years have been quite though…just he immediate family and that is it.

  9. I have continued celebrating this holiday through the many years of living in France where it is not a holiday. Sometimes I have been in the States and sometimes hosted a dinner in my home. These past few years we have gotten together with other Franco-Americans as we will this Saturday. I have a usual menu when I do the dinnerf–turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, peas with shallots in cream sauce, giblet gravy, cranberry relish if I can get the cranberries, corn pudding, maybe some stuffed dates, bread or rolls, pumpkin and mincemeat pie. This Saturday we will all contribute.
    I very much like this festival because it is warm and free from religion, etc. To me it is just about gathering and sharing each others company while taking a moment to appreciate our many blessings.

    I have been wondering how would you say this celebration in Arabic?

  10. I always enjoyed how the Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated earlier.

    I agree that each and every day should be a day to give blessings and thanks.

  11. For Thanksgiving, it depends where I’m at. At my grandparents’ home, usually it is a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal. However, at my parents’ home, it could be a variety of dishes (usually healthy) ranging from Italian food to Cajun food (typically Gumbo) to whatever we thought sounded good. 🙂 I have friends whose parents are from other countries, such as the Philippines, and they usually eat Filipino food (or whatever food they are used to eating such as Korean, Chinese, Mexican, etc.) for Thanksgiving dinner.

    Usually during dinner we mention what we are thankful for.

    I am thankful for many things, such as my awesome loving family and group of friends from all over the world, ability to pursue my dreams in life (and very supportive parents, siblings, and significant other), and I am also currently happy to be enjoying the beautiful weather where I’m at, too. 🙂 I am thankful for having such a wide range of experiences in my life this far. I think this helps me to appreciate all that I do have now. And I am thankful for being able to spend time with some of my family this Thanksgiving. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving! ❤

  12. I am very thankful that after almost 36 years with my husband that we are still together and have two beautiful children. I’m thankful that my brothers and sisters are still close and that my mother is still around to celebrate with all of us again this year.

    I’m thankful that you’re feeling a bit more like your old self again and that this blog is still here and you’re still so commited to it. It’s entertaining reading for all of us… for those of us who have experienced the Middle East, and for those that want to know more before heading to this unique part of the world.

  13. I am thankful for the very special day I’ve had today with loved ones all around! I was “table hopping” which was special and fun and extended this wonderful holiday of thankfulness and giving.

    I am also thankful for those of you who do choose to read American Bedu for that is what keeps me going with this blog!

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