When we moved to Taiwan, I imagined that we probably wouldn’t get to enjoy too many of our North American holiday traditions or special holiday foods, unless I somehow managed to put together a little holiday meal for Joel and I to share. I was wrong…we did get to have a big Thanksgiving meal, and it was a whole lot more fun than having one for just the two of us would have been!
About a month ago, we started talking about the possibility of the school hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for our students and their families. Initially we thought we might have about 30-40 guests…it was really hard to tell how much appeal this Western holiday and all of the weird Western food might have. So we set a date (Saturday the 18th…to allow more people to come than the traditional Thursday date), started working on inviting our students, planning a menu, and figuring out the decor. I had a few worries about the menu….would we be able to find all of the necessary ingredients? And…where would we ever find an oven big enough to cook a whole turkey?!?!? Kitchens here don’t generally come with ovens. You can buy an oven, but most of them are about the size of a microwave…big enough to fit one 9×13 pan, maybe. Some are no more than a glorified toaster oven!
We decided to see if there might be any local places with pre-cooked turkeys available, to cut down on the work and to solve the problem of the small ovens. That was a relief! Usually my mom or my sister-in-law does the turkey…I’ve helped with it once, but that’s never been my department. :D The rest of the menu would be mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, squash casserole, green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, some side veggies, bread,and also some little stuff like olives and pickles. Dessert would be (of course) pumpkin pie, apple pie, and some kind of fruit crisp (it ended up as blueberry)…with whipped cream for topping.
Shortly after we sent out the invitations to our students, it became obvious that we were going to have more than thirty people come to the party. In the first few days we thought we might have 50. A few days later, we estimated 60-70. Finally, the week of the party, our count was up to about 80 people! We located all of the necessary ingredients, placed an order for our turkeys (we ordered 4…considering their smaller size, and the number of people) and some roasted ham to go along with it. To get all of the food ready on time, we had to start cooking and preparing on Tuesday…four days before the big party!
In introducing the Thanksgiving holiday to our students, we decided to leave out all of the stuff about the pilgrims and Squanto…and focus on the “Giving Thanks” aspect of the holiday instead. We did keep the fall/harvest/turkey theme going though…we got the kids to color pictures of turkeys (alive and cooked), pumpkins, acorns with leaves, and cornucopias. My littlest kids also made the ever-present “hand turkeys” where you use your handprint for the turkey’s body and feathers…and Happy Thanksgiving signs. We utilized Joel’s height to hang leaves (with fishing line) from the ceilings. My favorite decoration though, were our “Thanksgiving Trees.” We had three rooms for our guests to eat in…and in each room, we had a brown paper tree trunk on the wall. We also had lots of colored leaves for them to write down things they were thankful for, and decorate the paper trees. These turned out to be really beautiful…some of the leaves are really touching, and some are just plain hilarious. My favorite funny one says: “Thank monster, save our earth!” :D
It seemed to be a really successful night. There were people everywhere…laughing, talking, writing on leaves. Or asking questions about some of the holiday traditions, or foods. Some people liked a lot of the food….some people liked hardly anything. Almost nobody liked the olives, a fact which Joel particularly seemed to delight in. He kept luring the kids over to the olive dish, and saying “Hey! Try this!”…just so he could watch their disgusted faces. :D
One comment I heard several times throughout the night was, “Oh! This is so special!
I never thought I would get to experience this American holiday, or try these Thanksgiving foods.” One mom said, “I’ve seen this in the movies, but now I can try it!” So, overall, I think that (regardless of whether they liked the food) most people really enjoyed the experience a lot.
We had PLENTY of food. I had planned for 80 American people (with Thanksgiving Day appetites)…not thinking about the fact that the food would be new, and that they would probably just try a little of everything…instead of loading up the plate with their favorites, as we tend to do! So we had enough to take leftovers for some of our other friends to try on Sunday. And, we had enough leftovers that we’re still eating some of them at our house (yum). In fact, I’ve got one piece of apple pie that I’ve been saving to eat after I finish writing this post.
On Monday, our boss told us that the official count for the evening(including teachers and staff) was 95 people! Wow! It’s no wonder we were all so tired out afterward!!! But it was well worth it…the kids are still talking about it…and we feel like it was an experience that they will remember for a long, long time. Click here to see more photos!