Frank in France #35

Frank Varney

Frank in France #35

3 mins
November 24, 2021

November 23, 2021

I am often asked what I miss about living in the United States. The list is relatively short: friends, family, and good Mexican and Sushi.

But next is line would definitely be Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday of the year.

First of all, who doesn’t love all the delicious food that is prepared that day? (As an adult, I’ve realized that I don’t have to wait until the last Thursday in November, I can eat those dishes whenever I want!)

Then of course there is spending time with loved ones. I have so many fond memories of Thanksgivings with family and Friends-givings with my “family of choice”, the friends we chose and who chose us in return.

But this holiday has another special meaning for me ever since 2008. After having gone through six months of intensive chemotherapy for Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, my oncologist called me the day before Thanksgiving to tell me that the treatments had been successful and that I was in remission. That brought a new meaning to this holiday, which was already special to me.

Since being in France, where it is not a holiday, the way I have celebrated has changed, but every year I try to commemorate, nonetheless. Due to work and school schedules, I’ve never been able to celebrate on Thursday, but having Thanksgiving on the weekend isn’t a tragedy.

This photo is from one of our first Thanksgivings in France. As you can see, it was a whopper of a bird! (Photo by Frank Varney)

Our first Thanksgivings were in our first home in France. At first it was a small gathering, since we didn’t know many people in the area. Then as we began to meet people, we started inviting more people. I jokingly began calling it “Mission: Introducing- Thanksgiving-to-the-French”.

In the last nine years, I’ve done a fair job of completing my self-assigned mission. We’ve had dinners in our home. The year I was doing a small business training, I prepared a scaled down Thanksgiving lunch for my 20 other colleagues.

When I had my bakery, we proposed a reservation-only Thanksgiving dinner for four consecutive nights. Beginning on Thanksgiving evening, we welcomed over 140 people for a traditional meal and introduced them to this holiday.

Lately, as my life has changed, Thanksgiving has been scaled down. Normally it’s my son and I, roasting a turkey breast with some of the fixings. (Which is honestly fine by me because that means all the leftovers are for us!)

Since being a substitute English teacher, I have created language and culture lessons around Thanksgiving for my students. For the younger students, it’s learning the basic story about how the holiday came about. For the older students, we begin by looking more critically at the story and examine opposing historical facts the put this myth into question. Then I introduce a contemporary version of Thanksgiving, one that isn’t attached to the mythical beginnings of the U.S., but rather than is rooted in the idea of “giving thanks” of “being grateful” for the bounties we have in our lives, while being cognizant of the spectrum of feelings that exist around this holiday.

Keeping the tradition of “Introducing Thanksgiving to the French” with another group of friends in 2018. Not the usual cast of characters, but most ingredients are there. (Photo by Frank Varney)

In whatever manner and with whomever you spend your Thanksgiving, I hope you are able to find something to be grateful for. Whether it’s your family and friends, your health, or countless other possibilities. 

I know I’ll be celebrating with my son, being grateful for my family, my family of choice, my friends, and all the opportunities that present themselves daily to live a fuller, happier life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This article was orginally reported by
Frank Varney