Thanksgiving Traditions With a Twist

Alice Higgins Dublin, Ireland


November 21, 2017

Although Irish people don’t traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving, you would be hard stretched to find someone who doesn’t know how important it is to our American friends and family. Here in Ireland we like to think of it as similar to our Christmas celebrations. Thanksgiving might not have religious connotations, but we agree on a few things; friends, family and food comas!

I will never forget my first traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I was studying abroad in the U.S and flew up to New Jersey to where my boyfriend at the time’s family were from. It certainly felt like Christmas had come early- hugs, smiles and welcoming all round. We got to prepping the food and chatting about traditions when, to my HORROR, I saw two very lovely but very different ingredients being merged- sweet potato and marshmallows, sorry, WHAT?! I was genuinely taken aback. I had never heard of anything like it before. Was it sweet, was it savoury? Who knew! Just as I managed to get over the shock, someone asked me to grab a can of pumpkin. A. CAN. OF. PUMPKIN. Again, gobsmacked. In Ireland pumpkin is used for one thing- carving. We carve pumpkins at Halloween and then they are forgotten about. Some adventurous people will dabble in a bit of pumpkin soup but pumpkin in a can was just alien to me. To hear that this canned puree would then make a sweet desert, having just heard that marshmallows would be used as a savoury dinner utterly confused me. Add green bean casserole and fried brussel sprouts into the mix and I knew that there really were quite a few differences to our traditional Christmas dinner. Once my shock had subsided (and the family had stopped laughing at said shock!) it was time to eat and all I can say is- WOW! You American’s have some crazy food combinations, but they sure do work!

The experience for me was amazing and one I’ll never forget. The differences between that and my family Christmas are what made it so special. However, the differences can be tough, and especially when it comes to certain food. As there are items that Irish people just NEVER use, most shops don’t stock certain things- hey there, canned pumpkin. Having tried pumpkin pie myself I realise what a staple it is to the meal and know that it will be sorely missed by our students. However, just like I embraced sweet potato and marshmallow, we try and encourage students to see differences and changes as a positive rather than a negative.

So here’s my suggestion; why not add something traditionally Irish to your Thanksgiving meal? Apple tart is much loved around Ireland and can be bought almost anywhere (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try out this recipe!) If you used this instead, you could start your own tradition and next year when you’re sitting at home you can add an apple tart to the table to remind you of your slightly alternate Thanksgiving in Ireland.

And to finish, while thinking of alternate traditions, why not try out some of these Irish phrases for wishing people a Happy Thanksgiving!

Lá Altaithe Sona Duit (Lah AL-teh-heh SUN-uh ditch) - Happy Thanksgiving (said to one person)

Lá Altaithe Sona Daoibh (Lah AL-teh-heh SUN-uh DEE-iv) - Happy Thanksgiving (said to multiple people).

Turcaí (TUR-kee) - Turkey

Brúitín (BROO-cheen) - Mashed potatoes

Anlann Mónóg (AN-lahn MOH-nohg) - Cranberry sauce

Súlach (SOO-lukh) - Gravy

Prátaí Spáinneachá (PRAH-tee SPAN-yukh-uh) - Sweet potatoes (literally “Spanish Potatoes”!)

Pióg phuimcín (PEE-ohg FUM-keen) - Pumpkin pie.

Enjoy your day, and make sure to #arcadiaireland with your Thanksgiving creations!