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My first Thanksgiving as a Greek Australian visiting America

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I never in my life thought I would be in New York City celebrating Thanksgiving, but here I am.

For a young Greek Australian, the idea of Thanksgiving seemed foreign to me – a holiday I’d only ever see and heard about in the movies.

This year though, it became a reality. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in America.

One of the biggest realisations I’ve come to while being here, is that there are other people like me.

They’re born in America (or Australia like me), they grew up speaking Greek, they regularly visit Greece in the summer, and even though they have adopted the traditions and customs of their birth country, their love and passion for their Greek culture and heritage remains alive and continues to grow.

Thanksgiving evelyn karatzas
Just the girls & I at the football tailgate before the game. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas.

On Thursday, November 23, my day began with watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, while preparing for my first Thanksgiving feast with family and friends. The displays were amazing, the performances were great to watch, and it still didn’t feel real to me that I went into that Macy’s in Times Square literally two weeks prior.

After the parade was over, I decided to make a spanakopita to bring to the feast. I made a quick call to my yiayia in Greece to get her recipe which was a family favourite, and a call to my mum back home in Australia to get her tzatziki recipe as that was also a must. I even made a tirokafteri. Even though it was an American holiday, it had a Greek twist.

At 4 pm, everyone gathered around the dining room table. Greek laika music played in the background as we indulged in turkey, spanakopita, pastitsio, lamb, beef brisket, pasta salad, crab salad, Greek salad, saganaki, pita bread, a charcuterie board… the list goes on.

Everything was delicious. We went around the table and said what we were thankful for, raised a glass of wine for the occasion, and then after, we enjoyed coffee and cake. There was pumpkin pie, cheesecake, apple pie and fruit. I was so full by the end of it all.

Thanksgiving evelyn karatzas
There was so much food to enjoy for my first Thanksgiving. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas.

Another culture shock I discovered while being here, is football culture and how big of a thing it is. Apparently every Thanksgiving, watching American football (NFL- which I still can’t understand for the life of me) is part of the traditions.

The day after Thanksgiving, I went to watch my first football game in New Jersey. The New York Jets went up against the Miami Dolphins. This was the first ever Black Friday football game in American history, and I got to be a part of it.

It was freezing cold, and I thought growing up in Canberra was bad!

Thanksgiving evelyn karatzas
I realised that going to a football game and watching one on tv is about more than just watching the sport here, its about connecting through a love of sport and eating, drinking and making good memories with family and friends. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas

Just before the game, we got to the stadium and I witnessed my first tailgate. This is an American tradition that takes place before a game, where people gather in the car park and eat, drink and get hyped up for the game.

We sat on fold out chairs, blasted Greek music and enjoyed leftover souvlakia, tzatziki and Greek sweets from Thanksgiving. There was ouzo, beers and seltzers as well.

I was shocked at how packed the car park was (or should I say parking lot now that I’m in the US?)

The game consisted of loud crowds cheering, people making bets, eating American hotdogs and pretzels, and drinking beers, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and hot chocolates. The Dolphins ended up winning, also.

Evelyn Karatzas football game
I watched the New York Jets VS the Miami Dolphins. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas.

This holiday experience was one I’ll never forget, and there was so much to enjoy. It’s so different being in New York City during this season, rather than in Australia.

I think it’s safe to say I prefer celebrating the holiday season here- you feel it more and it’s nice to be rugged up, look at Christmas displays, put up Christmas decorations and just explore this huge city, there’s just so much to do and see. Each day that goes by here, I meet new amazing people, I discover something new that I love, and another reason to want to stay. See you soon Australia… maybe!

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