Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, I realize that it has been over a week. And yes, I realize that you might not celebrate Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving is a holiday that should be celebrated no matter where or who you are because the holiday has become a celebration of everything positive and beautiful in life.

This year as Thanksgiving rolled around, I was hit with a wave of loss. I wouldn’t have days off from classes this year. I wouldn’t be heading home to enjoy a day of cooking (in a kitchen with all my favorite tools!). I wouldn’t be on my way to be with family and stuff my face with delicious food for a few hours. As I read all the Facebook statuses saying, “…HOME” or “…one more midterm and then a NYC Thanksgiving!” and one of my personal favorites, “…forgot how soft toilet paper could be” I got a little down.

But, in classic Thanksgiving-style, I remembered that I was in London. I had made a fantastic group of friends that I will miss so much. I got to travel around a continent that I had never seen before my arrival in London. And, I had a chance to show them the American Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no religious affiliations. In New York, it’s crisp autumn weather. Usually. It means a bit of relaxing–we never drive near the stores on Friday. There is a ton of good food, smiling faces, laughter and happy conversation. And despite not being in the United States, I decided I needed to celebrate Thanksgiving. There were a few hurdles to jump before any turkey could be cut though.

One. Get people to agree to join in the celebration and then convince them to help cook dishes. One person cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal and going to class that same day is not impossible but definitely not fun. End result: a list of desserts. Somehow everyone has baking experience…

Two. Go grocery shopping. My friends and I looked like headless chickens looking for all of our ingredients. We probably should have just abducted a staff member to tell us where everything was. Instead, we chased down a new staff member everytime we got stumped again. I have never appreciated how well I know my grocery store. End result: confusion.

Three. Find a place that will actually fit all of this food. Flat kitchens are a little unwieldy and temperamental. Thank goodness my friend had a kitchen with two ovens and two sinks. We ended up with a guest list of 19 or so and when we were eating, everybody stood. There was no way to sit and eat but this was fine because there was a much more dynamic flow of conversation. End result: lots of fun!

Four. Cook. I have never cooked turkey before and now I was cooking two. This is one I suffered from a minor panic attack. Okay, that is an over-exaggeration. But I definitley was not calm and this is where I am thankful for my parents. I called up my mom and she wasn’t flustered at all. In a completely calm manner she says “You’ll be fine.” Of course, then she messes up a tiny bit and says “And if you mess up, you can always get take out since nothing is actually closed over there.” End result: Thanks, mom.

Five. Eat. Duh.

At the end of the day, we ended up with a feast. Two turkeys, two green bean casseroles, one giant potato casserole, two giant bowls of cranberry sauce, two bowls of gravy, two batches of mashed potatoes and stuffing covered the table. Did I mention that we had already been snacking on cheese & crackers? And nobody can forget that there was an entire fridge full of desserts. And all of this was done by a group of students studying at a university in London. Did we have all the cooking utensils or skills of other Thanksgiving cooks in the past? Most definitely not. Did we have a fantastic meal? YES.

I am thankful that I got to cook my first Thanksgiving for such an awesome group of people. And even if none of us are celebrating Thanksgiving for the reason that it was begun, we are definitely celebrating properly. We are enjoying a feast made by each other, for each other, with each other. This Thanksgiving became a celebration of each other and our limited but fantastic time together. I am thankful for my family and friends back home and hope that I can something similar with them in the future. But my group of friends here have made my London experience perfect in every way. It is only fitting that I celebrate my Thanksgiving with them. Thank you. Also, thank you for finishing almost all of the food!

Travelers, even if you don’t have a giant meal on the last Thursday of November, have at least one meal a year where you celebrate everything beautiful in your life. It brings a smile to everyone’s face and creates a memory to cherish.