Celebrating American Thanksgiving … Japanese Style

As an American family living in Japan, we do our best to keep up the American traditions that are most important to our family.  For us that means celebrating Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and Fourth of July, even when three of the four of those holidays are generally not on the Japanese radar screen.  Fortunately, though almost no regular grocery stores sell turkeys, cranberry sauce, bread cubes for stuffing, or American sweet potatoes, we are blessed to have a Costco a few hours away and a friend with a membership card!  For the items that even Costco doesn’t sell, we stock up ahead of time during our yearly trip to the States in September, and beg friends and family to send those occasional items we forget to add to our shopping list.

While most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family, we live so far away that our tradition is to celebrate with our “adopted family” here in Japan — co-workers and other close friends, both American and Japanese.  My amazing mom used to make every traditonal dish herself each year (until my brother and I were old enough to help with some of the items).  I honestly don’t know how she did that!  Every year the turkey and stuffing or a pie fall to me, but other than that all the guests contribute a food or drink item to the menu until we have a huge feast.  It is so wonderful not to have to make it all myself!  Sometimes we end up with unusual items that way, like the year some friends contributed “tako yaki” — fried balls of batter with octopus pieces inside of them,  but that’s just one more reason our celebration is uniquely American and Japanese at the same time.  This year everyone brought traditional items and as usual everything was extremely delicious!

In addition to feasting, our family prepared for Thanksgiving by reading a Children’s picture book depicting the Pilgrims’ journey to America on the Mayflower.  We also made a “Thanksgiving Tree” using a printable I found on Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience.  I saw there are quite a few different versions of the thanksgiving tree idea on the internet, but I really liked the design she used for the leaves on this one.  We printed out the leaves on white cardstock, cut them out, and then wrote things we were thankful for on the backs.  Then we hole-punched the leaves and hung them on branches the kids had picked up at the park next door and put everything in a super cute vase that our dear friend Megan made for us as a Thanksgiving gift a couple of years ago.  Oh, and of course our Thanksgiving celebration isn’ t complete without our  yearly game of “shoot the stuffed animal turkeys off the backs of dining room chairs with Nerf dart guns” game.  Your family does that too, right??

We Love Baby Lucy!

The day before Katie’s birthday, our dear friends Megan and Jason Doddrige had the awesome joy of bringing their first daughter, Baby Lucy, into the world.  I was in the waiting room when she was born and it was so exciting to hear her first cry coming from the delivery room!  The day she and Megan checked out of the hospital, they made a brief stop at our house so that the kids could meet their new friend.  Here are some precious photos of them enjoying their first meeting with their new pal.

Enjoying the Super Bowl in Japan

On Super Bowl Sunday (which is actually a Monday in Japan!) we joined our good friends Megan and Jason for a super fun Super Bowl Party.  We watched the game online and projected it onto a white board so that we could see it on a big screen.  We weren’t able to watch it live, but only Jason knew the outcome, so most of us were still on the edge of our seats waiting to find out if the Packers had won or not.  I lived in Green Bay from 2 to 4 years old so of course we had to cheer for Green Bay! 🙂  The boys especially had a blast watching while  listening to Bryan and Jason explain the finer points of the game.    I personally learned a few important things about football that I had never known before (like what a “down” actually is(!)).  While I enjoyed the game, the awesome food that Megan had prepared was maybe even a bigger highlight!    But hey, that’s another important part of the American tradition of Super Bowl Parties, right?! 😉

Here are a few pics of our party.