Photo via Wendy Wei
Though the London streets are already decked with dozens of twinkling lights in preparation for the Christmas holidays, it won’t be enough to stop the American expats and travellers who’ll be pining for pumpkin pie and turkey this Thanksgiving week.
Funnily enough, many Americans avoid Christmas cheer of any kind until after Thanksgiving dinner has successfully been tucked away. Something about skipping over holidays doesn’t sit right – imagine celebrating Valentine’s Day before New Year’s Eve. Though celebrating Thanksgiving abroad tests the boundaries of tradition, it’s not impossible to enjoy a good old-fashioned American Thanksgiving in the UK.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s hard to explain to those outside its tradition — a sort of pre-Christmas celebration with more food but no presents, usually complete with alcohol-induced family arguments, and a side of (American) football.
At its core, the holiday is centered around the importance of gathering and sharing a meal that represents all which we are grateful for. Since the pandemic, Thanksgiving has an even more profound meaning, reuniting families who were separated for months or years. For those who lost loved ones during this period of time, it is even more crucial to practice gratitude at this time of year.
Arguably the best part about this holiday is that there is no one way to do it. Every family has their own recipes and quirky traditions that make their Thanksgiving unique. My family wakes up early to cook and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade before indulging in our feast around lunch time – providing the perfect gap in the day for post-meal naps – followed by a dinner of leftovers. Others prefer to organise their meal around the Thanksgiving Day football game or the kick-off to Black Friday. Some groups even make a tradition out of eating Thanksgiving dinner at an unusual restaurant like The Melting Pot – points for creativity.
Regardless of how you celebrate, having a day where almost everyone is coming together around good food (that’s basically different iterations of the same menu), is definitely something to be grateful for.
This year, I am spending Thanksgiving in the home away from home that I have created here in London. This will be the first time I have not been at home in the States to celebrate. Still, there are certainly many ways to adapt to this holiday in the UK.
First, to alleviate the stress of cooking a full meal in a tiny flat kitchen, I recommend a pot-luck style Thanksgiving gathering. This way, not only is everyone contributing something but your meal can be more diverse: representing various Thanksgiving preferences and traditions. This is also a good way to extend an invitation to new friends or introduce the holiday to some British neighbours.
For those who wish to try their hand at cooking, be sure to check out the grocery shops who are offering Thanksgiving packages. Whole Foods, Waitrose, and Sainsburys are among those participating, making it easy for shoppers to quickly locate all the necessary ingredients or pre-order prepared dishes and sides.
Another suggestion for Thanksgiving in London is to find restaurants and pubs offering traditional holiday spreads. Many of the city’s grandest hotels use the holiday as an excuse to show off their transatlantic flair. So whether you would like to partake in a boujee four-course feast or head to a sports pub to watch American football in the evening, there is a way you can recreate Thanksgiving without even cooking.
Here are the top 5 places to see American football and go for food in London:
1. Riley’s Sports Bar
2. The Steam Passage
3. O’Neill’s Wardour Street
4. The Dugout at Belushi’s sports bar
1. Jones Family Project
2. The Blues Kitchen
3. The Hero of Maida
4. PJ’s Chelsea Brasserie
5. South Place Chop House