The first time I ever felt truly homesick when I lived overseas was October, 2008. I had been living in Japan for about five months, and it was the first time I was dealing with being away from home during a major holiday – Thanksgiving. I would call home and hear stories about how my mom had just picked up the turkey, or they were making apple crumble or my favourite pumpkin pie. Even with the offers to be sent some Stove Top stuffing mix (the greatest food to ever grace the holiday table) something just didn’t seem right, and I really wanted to go home.
I knew a lot of people who were feeling the same, though they might have not let on. They were quite content to be the type to swallow up their homesickness, and just ride it like a wave of sadness. I, however, am not the type of person to sit back and let things make me sad.
That weekend, I went and got a Costco membership, and with a few Canadian friends, we picked up a barbecue chicken and a giant pumpkin pie. Despite only having a microwave and two gas burners as a stove top, we were able to make a shadow of a holiday feast, with carrots, potatoes, chicken, gravy, stuffing, and pie.
With that, a tradition was born.
By the time I left Japan, our holiday get togethers grew to be somewhat epic. What was once four friends picking at a barbecued chicken became a party with at least ten foreigners and piles more food than any of us knew what to do with.
Those holidays were some of my favourite memories of both my time in Japan, and just the holidays in general, because they were different and unique. The Christmases of the past few years all seem to blend together as moments with family and lots of food, but I can tell you almost every detail of my Christmas in Japan. I can still remember singing impromptu Christmas carols in a subway station, and the smiles on the couples faces as they passed us on their way home. The feeling of relief of knowing the grocery stores would still be open once we realized we were going to be short on vegetables. Spending the day with friends and at the end of the day realizing the thought of being homesick hadn’t even crossed my mind; I was too busy having fun and making memories.
Now that I’m in Korea, I love to see that my friends in Japan still continue to have our holiday parties. Many of them may not remember how they started, but I do. I’ve seen my different groups of friends come together and become friends themselves, and watched as just the simple idea of getting together for a bit of home-style food has brought so many people together.
I’m back at square one here. But last month, my friend and I had chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie for Thanksgiving. You’ve got to start somewhere.