US Thanksgiving in Italy – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

US Thanksgiving in Italy – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


Ciao a tutti! This week was Thanksgiving, yet it did not feel the same being outside of the United States. First of all, it was strange going about my day as if it were not a holiday to me. I went to my internship just like any other Thursday. However, we were able to talk to our boss and get the afternoon off so that we could go home and cook. The other students in my program and I all got together for our own Thanksgiving feast! Everyone was a bit unsettled being away from their families, so we wanted to celebrate the traditional holiday within our group. We formed a potluck where everyone who ate brought one dish. We were able to find a turkey too! This may seem like an ordinary addition to a Thanksgiving dinner, but we had to put in a special order to get a turkey available at our local Co-op. The Italians that we talked to about the holiday found it very strange that a Turkey is the main food in our meal, as they do not have it in their diet very often.


The potluck was a combination of mimicked food dishes from our own homes, often made by our parents. We ended up with a fantastic spread of traditional foods such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, vegetables, pies and more. We even added an Italian twist with Tuscan wine and tiramisu! I recently learned that tiramisu translates to “pick me up”, which makes sense because it is made of coffee and cream-like custard, an Italian favorite. We had limited cooking space, as all of us were trying to make our own dish and it created a late dinner well into the evening. It was worth the wait! We sat down and shared what we are thankful for while enjoying the food that we had prepared. Our Italian hosts were invited to the dinner and they were very interested in the traditional foods, especially the gravy. They made an effort to try each piece and we had them break the wishbone, the tradition where two people grab a hold of the two sides of the wishbone and pull, promising good luck to the person that ends up with more bone. At the end of the night, it seemed that everyone was happy that we had come together for this meal on a day that is usually spent at home with close friends and family.


About our special correspondent Sara, I am a junior at St. Scholastica majoring in Computer Science with a concentration of Software Engineering. I am staying in a small town about 25 minutes outside of Florence, Italy with a HECUA program. My current studies are focused on Agriculture and Sustainability, which is very interesting to learn about in Europe. I chose this program because Italy has always been a place that I wanted to visit, mainly due to the fact that my great-grandfather came here from southern Italy. This is my first time in Europe and it has been quite the experience so far. I am excited for even more experiences as I gain a better understanding of the community!

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30 responses to “US Thanksgiving in Italy – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

    • Paige Perreira

      Wow! Being in Italy for an internship seems like such a cool experience! I can’t imagine being away from my family for Thanksgiving, let alone overseas in a different country. It’s really cool that you were able to replicate a traditional Thanksgiving meal while being in a place that wouldn’t think twice about the day. It was neat that you incorporated a little piece of Italy into your meal! I wonder if Italians have a similar holiday. Thanks for sharing your photos and story! You are definitely part of a very unique opportunity.

    • DyAnna Grondahl


      Thank you for this post. I find it amusing that you all had to make a special effort to get a turkey at the market for Thanksgiving. I have always wondered over why we eat what we eat at the holidays. I appreciate your groups effort to recreate the traditional meal with an Italian spin. It would be really challenging to be away from family for so long, and I think that challenge would be exacerbated over the holidays. Did you experience a heightened amount of homesickness over the holidays during your experience abroad in Italy?

  1. Cassie Mahlberg

    It is really interesting to try and celebrate an American holiday in a totally different cultural context. Luckily, the celebration of Thanksgiving typically means the intake of food and the giving of thanks for all that we have, which is something that many countries probably do, just for different holidays. I find it a bit sad that you didn’t get the miniature break that we get here in the U.S. for Thanksgiving. It is intriguing that you had to special order a turkey and that they were actually able to get it for you since it isn’t a typical part of their diet. It was nice that you were all able to take a few moments to celebrate something that would give you a little dose of your homeland as the semester draws to a close. As wonderful as your adventure has been, I’m sure everyone is a bit tired and ready to reunite with family and friends.

  2. Abbey DeLisle

    I am so happy that you got to enjoy some time off with your friends! I have never been out of the country for a holiday but I imagine the tone would be much different and that you would almost feel as if it wasn’t a holiday. There is something about celebrating at home, that is, wherever your friends and family are. Although you did not get your traditional Thanksgiving, I admire your strive to create a special gathering. I hope you can take this experience with you and appreciate every moment you get to spend with those you love when you return!

  3. Michaela Campbell

    It is always an amazing experience to have the opportunity to travel abroad, and I am sure it is even more interesting to be in another country during a holiday. Especially with it being Thanksgiving, I am sure like you mentioned that it was easy to be homesick when you are thousands of miles away! I think it is always a fun experience to bring together both old and new twists on holiday dinners. You mentioned that the usual parts of a Thanksgiving meal were included such as the turkey (which is interesting that you had to make a request for one to the Co-op!), gravy, mashed potatoes, etc., but that you also included Italian options such as Tuscan wine and tiramisu. I think the more we can incorporate small aspects of other cultures into our own, we gain a more holistic viewpoint of other places. Hope your experiences continue to treat you well.

  4. Megan Gonrowski

    I love that some Italian people were confused about the Thanksgiving traditions. We often see American holidays as normal that it is hard to remember that on some of our holidays the rest of the world just keeps moving. It is different for Christmas because different countries still celebrate. Although, it would be interesting to see how Christmas traditions vary between countries. If the Italians don’t eat turkey on holidays, I wonder what kinds of meats they are used to. It does seem slightly odd that probably the only time of year we cook a whole turkey is on Thanksgiving. People eat turkey lunch meat throughout the year, but never the whole bird. I guess I could see how it would be odd. It seems like your group experienced the true meaning of the holidays by just gathering together and taking time to be thankful for all the blessings.

  5. McKenna Holman

    It is really great that you were able to bring a tradition from home abroad and teach some of your host families about our Thanksgiving. Sometimes its easy to forget that others in different countries don’t always celebrate the same holidays we do. What is Thanksgiving in Italy? Do they generally do any kind of celebratory dinner?
    I cannot imagine how hard it is to be away from home during the holidays. The holidays are always an important time for me to spend with my family. Even coming to college and not being able to participate in every holiday tradition with my family is hard, but that is a part of growing up I suppose. I think the experiences that you are having in Italy is very vital to your future, though, and so important.

  6. Mary Tran

    It’s great how you and the other students in your program were able to get together for your own Thanksgiving! I find it interesting how you had to special order to get the turkey available at your local Co-op. In the Italian culture, what meat do they use as their main food for the holidays? It’s wonderful how you were able to all create a spread of the traditional foods that are a part of a Thanksgiving meal in addition to adding some items from the Italian culture! What are some foods that Italians make for holiday meals? What did your Italian hosts think about Thanksgiving and the whole meal? I’m glad that everyone enjoyed being together for this meal that is usually spent at home with friends and family. Thank you for sharing Sara!

  7. Dylan Brovick

    It is nice that you were able to have a Thanksgiving meal with friends. MY favorite part of Thanksgiving is being with family so not being able to see them on the holiday must have been hard. I like that the host families enjoyed the meal and that they were interested in the gravy. Having to special order a turkey is something I never would have that about. I didn’t know that is wasn’t a normal part of Italians diet but I guess I don’t eat or prepare a turkey that often. It is nice being able to prepare a meal and sit down with friends and enjoy it. I had Thanksgiving with family but, before we all left for home me and some of my friends had a Thanksgiving where we all brought something. No matter who it is, I feel it is nice to come together and enjoy a great meal with great company.

  8. Thomas Landgren

    Thanks for sharing again Sara! It was so nice of your boss to allow you guys to take the day off for a holiday that isn’t celebrated in Italy. It is always interesting to see how people who aren’t from the US think about thanksgiving. I love the idea of adding a little Italian twist to your thanksgiving. Was it a good experience being over in Italy during thanksgiving? Great Article!

  9. Kathleen Reicher

    Thanks for sharing, Sara! It’s awesome that you could still celebrate Thanksgiving even though you were not in the States. I imagine it was hard not being around family since that is usually a Thanksgiving tradition. But it’s great that you could share the holiday with your Italian hosts. It’s cool that you all could incorporate the Italian food as well. I also have ancestors from Italy and have always wanted to visit there. Maybe I should check out the HECUA programs!

  10. Sheila Iteghete

    This was a very interesting read for me Sara because it made me feel connected your celebration in Italy. I am glad you could celebrate thanksgiving away from home while maintaining the tradition of breaking the wishbone. I myself, not being from the United States and has joined in celebration of Thanksgiving with family friends has never been a witness of that tradition. With that, I may like to ask if Thanksgiving will not be considered thanksgiving if that tradition did not take place. I would also like to add that I am also a fan of some of the dishes used in your celebration, but I celebrated thanksgiving with traditional Nigerian cuisines, which also runs into the evening before the meal can be enjoyed by those that gathered with us. We also do go around stating what we are thankful for that year and we begin with a prayer to bless our meal.

  11. Kendra Brunn

    What a fun Thanksgiving! I’m glad you were able to celebrate the holiday even though it is not a special day in Italy. I love how you incorporated classic Italian foods into the Thanksgiving dinner, that makes it really special! I’m glad you knew to order the turkey early, I had no clue it wasn’t part of their everyday diet. I also loved how the family you were staying with participated. I’m sure it was a completely new experience for them, so hopefully they enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Ellen Hansen

    To start, I have to say I respect the amount of effort you put into this meal. On another note, I think it is interesting how the traditions we were raised with stay with us, regardless of where we find ourselves in the world. The sentiments expressed through Thanksgiving festivities (ones of appreciation for family and friends, for example) are ones that are valued across the world. Ultimately, while the food may seem bizarre to an Italian bystander, they- especially with their heavily food-based culture- know the importance and of a shared meal among friends. It is also interesting that you included some Italian dishes in the spread, since it showed your ability to draw from other cultures for influence as you celebrate your own… A very unifying thing.

  13. Seeing the differences between cultures is always so interesting. We often forget that our norms are not normal at all in a foreign country. I love how turkey is not that common of a commodity when our culture consumes turkey very consistently. The fact that your whole group could get together to enjoy a nice thanksgiving meal is wonderful. Other countries may not have the tradition, but it is always nice to be reminded of the beauty in life.

  14. Grace Young

    It is so cool that you got the chance to experience an American holiday outside of the United States. Although it would be hard to celebrate any holiday away from family, it is such a unique experience to come together with peers and bring this tradition to a different culture. It is also very cool to hear about how your Italian hosts were invited and saw our traditional food as foreign to them. It is also awesome that you included Italian food in your meal! This sounds like an incredible experience and I’m glad you got to celebrate in such a unique way!

  15. Thanksgiving is an important holiday in my family, more so than Christmas I would say. I think it would be hard to be away from home during the holiday season but it sounds like you all made it work. I like that you each got to share what you grew up with. My family has never done candied yams, however we do a pickle and olive spread and always have plenty of wild rice to go around. Thank you for writing about your experience in Italy!

  16. Francesca Do

    Hello Sara,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us! The Thanksgiving meal looks so good! It is so cool that you are able to experience a holiday in a unique country, like Italy. Since I come from a very traditional Vietnamese family, I knew that the American culture eats turkey as the main meal. However, I never ate turkey as the main meal during Thanksgiving but instead, my family ate rice with meat and Pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup. I have a big family so every time we get together to celebrate a holiday gathering, it gets chaotic, but we love spending time with each other.

  17. Nicholas Burski

    I often forget that Thanksgiving is not celebrated by others around the globe. I can imagine that not having family around on a family centered holiday could be quite different but it is great that everyone found a way to celebrate! Looking at the pictures of the food and reading the descriptions made me quite excited for the upcoming Thanksgiving as well! The Italian twist sounds like a great way to do the holiday while abroad and it is really cool that you were able to show your hosts a bit about the tradition here in America. Thank you for sharing this great experience!

  18. william Brennhofer

    I have always wondered what ti would be like to have an American holiday somewhere else in the world. I can only imagine how wired it must have been to celebrate a holiday about being together with loved ones and giving thanks for all that we have, when you are overseas with out any family there to support you. Its nice that you were able to draw in a staple over Italian culture in to the American holiday. Its also funny how you had a small area to cook all the food, cause when i think of the thanksgiving meal, i always think of a huge kitchen being full. Its nice that you had your fellow students there to celebrate with you, at least there is some semblance of a norm there.

  19. Katrina Lund

    What a lovely way to celebrate a holiday away from home! I’m glad that you all were able to experience a ~taste~ of home so far away from it. It’s very interesting how surprising the Turkey was to your italian hosts, I’m curious when, if ever, they incorporate it into their dinners or why they don’t. I can imagine not being around your loved ones during such a familiar time can be hard, but I bet it’s a little easier to stomach while in a place as beautiful as italy 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful rest of the holiday season abroad, Sara, and thank you for sharing.

  20. Katie Peterson

    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to be with my family, so I can’t imagine being in a different country and celebrating without them! The potluck dinner looks amazing–and it is so nice that the students in your program were able to gather and celebrate. I love that you were able to add some more traditional Italian things to the meal too! I’m also glad that you were able to have turkey, I don’t think it would be a Thanksgiving meal for me without it! I didn’t know that Turkey isn’t typical to have for a meal in Italy. What a unique memory of this celebration you will always have. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Diana Deuel

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing this story! I have wanted to live or study abroad for as long as I can remember and one of the things I often think about is spending the holidays away from home. I think it would be very difficult but I am happy that you and your group were able to come together and celebrate it! I am sure your host family was very amused by the American traditions! I think it is awesome to experience other cultures holidays and being able to celebrate with them is a lot of fo fun.

    Have a great Thanksgiving this year!

  22. Jane Kariuki

    Hello Sarah,
    I wanted to read this article because at the moment it is Thanksgiving here in Minnesota. I am glad that you got to celebrate the Holiday. Thanksgiving is very interesting to me especially this year. Generally, my family does not celebrate this holiday. However, we use it as an excuse to get together with our tiny family, hang out and sometimes we even cook. In the past years, we have done more and more cooking but our dishes do not reflect the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This year my older siblings suggested that we make an effort in cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal. My brother offered to buy the turkey and my sister said that she would cook it. We got the turkey to the table but the rest of the dishes were traditional Kenyan festive food. Therefore, I have to applaud my siblings for trying but I think in the years to come we will be sticking to the Kenyan traditional foods. This makes me wonder how the Thanksgiving meal has changed over the years. Thank you for sharing your outcome of Thanksgiving abroad.

  23. Ellery Bruns

    I am glad you were able to celebrate Thanksgiving while in Italy. It is also really amazing that you were able to share the holiday with your Italian friends. The sharing of cultures is one way people can get to know one another, learn about each other. Culture sharing can be a really beautiful thing, and I think Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to do this at. People usually go around saying what they are thankful for anyway, so why not add in sharing cultures and traditions? Thank you for sharing your article!

  24. Madina Tall

    Hello Sara,
    What a fascinating article! It didn’t occur to me that the feelings and emotions attached to a holiday could carry on to a whole new land without needing that same atmosphere. Being in a place with new cultures and traditions, often times just bring back memories of my own traditions but I didn’t realize that the feelings could be so strong, which I think is wonderful. I’m glad you were able to find a turkey because sometimes there’s a certain piece that really ties everything together! I hope you keep staying true to your cultures and traditions! Thank you.

  25. Tamer Mische-Richter


    Your Thanksgiving sounds like it was a blast! Being in an area that doesn’t celebrate a holiday that isn’t necessarily religious is interesting to me. You celebrated a holiday that is unique to North America in Europe. I guess because of that, I’m not surprised you had a hard time finding ingredients and a Turkey! I can imagine that your host families enjoyed the dinner but found some of the food more interesting than not. Gravy! I have a feeling that snapping the wishbone was super unusual as well. (I’ve always been a bit too squeamish…)

  26. Lydia Liubakka

    Its pretty lucky that your boss allowed you and others to leave early to make a Thanksgiving meal. I have never experience a holiday away from home so its hard for me to imagine what it would feel like to be missing out. Maybe the closest example I have to this would be the first time I spent the holiday with my husband’s family instead of my own. It funny to think that you would have had to special order a turkey to the co-op and that your host families would think that gravy is strange. Now that you point out the breaking the wishbone tradition through an Italian lens, it does seem weird. I wonder what other strange traditions we have here in the states. For example, do other countries “believe” in the tooth fairy?

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