I have a love/hate relationship with American holidays in the Middle East.

I adore them because of the simplicity. There is no commercialism, mass consumerism or expectation of what holidays are supposed to be. We are free to create traditions or customs based on what a holiday truly means to us and that can be a beautiful thing.

Holidays are also familiar. For some aberrant reason it feels “normal” to have a house full of people (even when they are from all over the globe) and make cornbread dressing with cornmeal you imported from the states. When everything about life feels foreign, you treasure the things that remind you of your home culture.

On the other hand, I usually get misty eyed at least once on all major holidays. I miss my family. I miss our friends. I miss the way we used to celebrate. I miss our old traditions. I miss being able to find the things I “need” to make the holiday special. (Full disclosure: I once cried because I make sausage balls every Christmas and now live in a country where pork is forbidden. I’m ashamed of my behavior.)

My compassionate husband goes out of his way to cheer me up when the holiday sadness sets in. This Thanksgiving was no different.

Thanksgiving is just another day here so that morning I headed to work.  Britten could see the sadness starting to rear its head so he picked me up that afternoon and said we were going out for Thanksgiving lunch. He then convinced us to say “The Thanksgiving” in front of everything we ordered. The only catch was you had to do it with a straight face and no laughing or smiling.

The boys nailed it as they politely ordered, “The Thanksgiving Nachos” and “The Thanksgiving Waffles.”

Britten had to fight off a smile as he asked our sweet waiter for the “Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict.”

I, on the other hand, could barely keep a straight face as I ordered the “Thanksgiving Sushi Roll” but it was impossible to fend off the giggles when I asked for a “Thanksgiving Diet Pepsi.” Laughter erupted across the table and all was right in the world.

Our amazing waiter didn’t miss a beat and even played along by serving each dish with, “The Thanksgiving” in front of it. Hearing our sweet Phillipino waiter say, “And who ordered the Thanksgiving Breakfast Bagel?” was a sweet spot in the day and a memory I will treasure for years to come.

The next day we hosted a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner complete with turkey, dressing and sweet potato casserole. The climax of the meal was when our friend from Zimbabwe said, “Can you explain to me how the food works?” You can’t comprehend the joy of introducing someone to turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce for the first time.

The guys competed for the coveted Thanksgiving Weigh-In Trophy. Each guy weighed before dinner and again after. The person that gained the most weight took home the trophy. I’m still not sure how it happened but our South African friend Garreth took home the trophy with a weight gain of seven pounds.

We ended the night with an amusing round of White Elephant, a tradition that’s been in our family for over ten years. Each person brings a gift that they no longer want or need. It can be a re-gift, something you no longer need, something that no longer fits or something you just don’t want. The only rule is you can’t spend money on your gift. We took home a vegetable peeler and a Chia Pet. Winning.

Our holidays are different every year depending on where we live and the diversity of the people that are near. But one thing remains the same, when the last guests leaves and the door is closed tight, my heart is full to overflowing for the friends the Lord has brought into our lives and the special times we celebrate together.

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