Paris Thanksgiving Events for Americans

Written by admin on January 28, 2012 – 11:36 am -

Vintage Thanksgiving postcard. Public domain image.In the USA, most Americans are preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, a time to give thanks and catch up with relatives over a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. Under the best of circumstances, Americans travel from different parts of the country for multigenerational gatherings because the days of the nuclear family are pretty much a thing of the past.

No matter what’s happening in these uncertain economic times, many Americans consider Thanksgiving a time to reflect and give thanks. Invariably, less fortunate families are remembered by those who can donate cash, food and/or service at shelters and soup kitchens. Perhaps, because Thanksgiving is a holiday with a muted religious significance, it isn’t loaded with do’s and don’ts. And it is a day to pay homage to Native Americans who taught the pilgrims and new settlers how to survive.

Thanksgiving in Paris

Expats may leave their home countries, but they take their traditions with them, which often become more meaningful when living abroad. Groups such as the American Club, the American Church in Paris and other expat groups sponsor holiday events for the local expat community.

For Americans living abroad, Thanksgiving may still be “your” holiday, but it’s not recognized in France. On the other hand, you will get time off for French holidays, such as religious holiday La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) where people honor the dead. It’s not just an excuse for a Halloween party and trick-or-treating. Some children who attend American schools abroad will be on school vacation, but their parents probably won’t be. Some expat families band together and celebrate the holiday in traditional American style because, if they plan to return home, it’s usually during the Christmas break when everyone is on vacation.

Traveling Americans in the mood to mingle with expats over an American-style Thanksgiving dinner may wish to contact those entities or check the many hotels that cater to Americans who walk in without reservations. If you look in the English-language newspaper (or call the American Church), you’ll find numerous choices. But don’t wait for your invite from the American ambassador to France—the Rivkin family is undoubtedly busy.

Preparing your own Thanksgiving meal in France

Travelers and expats in France can prepare a traditional turkey dinner with the help of American specialty groceries like The Real McCoy (no website) and Thanksgiving. Some larger Monoprix stores have a small selection of imported foods. You can find canned cranberry sauce or jelly, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, and marshmallows to bake on top on the sweet potatoes. They can even buy cans of puréed pumpkin so they can whip up pies in ready-made pie crusts. Don’t tell your French friends.

Stop by your local butcher ASAP to see if you can order a Thanksgiving turkey, which will be small, very fresh and very expensive compared to U.S. standards. Larger French groceries sell larger turkeys, but they’re frozen and, again, expensive.

Thanksgiving has always been meaningful to me. I’ll never forget when my mother came to visit the first year I lived in Paris (we’re talking 20-some years ago). Her luggage included cans of Ocean Spray’s finest tucked into shoes, and unpacking her suitcases was a treasure hunt. That was before the French discovered and started marketing turkey as the “white meat.” The largest turkey anyone could buy was a bird only marginally larger than a chicken. A few butchers in the 6ème7ème, and 16ème arrondissements (where most Americans tended to live) were willing to order large turkeys for their clients. But everything had its time… and that time was Christmas.

Being resourceful and unaware of French agricultural regulations, my mother imported a real honest-to-goodness Butterball in a Styrofoam container. Gee, it had to defrost anyway, and what was wrong with doing it in transit across the Atlantic? When the customs inspectors asked what the trunk contained, my mother, who spoke little French but had a dazzling smile, explained it was for her daughter and Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey and she were waved through security and, yes, it was a memorable dinner.

We invited all of our American friends, who were amazed by the Butterball caper. We also included French friends and professional colleagues who weren’t overwhelmingly impressed by the caliber of the food. Who could blame them? Thanksgiving meals simply aren’t haute cuisine. It goes without saying they were incredibly polite and saved the evening by bringing chilled champagne. We were all feeling less pain by the time dinner was on the table.

I’ve come to relish Thanksgiving dinner with family, American and French friends. The evening usually doesn’t begin until 8:00 pm, and we have a wonderful times bonding over food and American traditions. And lots of wine. Isn’t that what life is about? And something to be thankful for?

Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris:

Check business-hotel chains that cater to North Americans, such as the le Meridien and Westin hotels in the Starwood Resorts group, Marriott, larger Holiday Inns, and Pullman hotels.

American Church in Paris

  • Thursday, Nov. 24 12:15pm service
  • Saturday, Nov. 26 7:30pm Thanksgiving dinner

Breakfast in America

  • their Thanksgiving dinners are fully booked, but you can always try in case of no-shows…

Joe Allen’s

  • Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Nov. 24

Le Ralph’s (Ralph Lauren’s Paris restaurant)

  • Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 24  2 seatings: 6:30 and 9:30pm (reserve now)

Le Saint-Martin Bistrot

  • Thanksgiving dinner for dine-in or take-away, Thursday, Nov. 24 through Saturday, Nov. 26 (Premium Subscribers, see Margaret Kemp’s BUZZ article for full details.)

The Real McCoy and McCoy Café (no website)

  • 2 small grocery shops, Paris 7th: The Real McCoy at 49, avenue Bosquet and McCoy Café at 194, rue de Grenelle

Thanksgiving, the store, Paris 4th

  • grocery specializes in American packaged foods & special-order turkeys

PHOTO CREDIT: Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1900. Public domain image.


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