My first Thanksgiving at Fonte was an interesting experiment, a lot of work and a lot of fun! And it helped me realize an important element of my Italian experience. I was going to have to be alone again on this second Thanksgiving at Montefino, because of a confluence of scheduling changes and since my family is joining me for Christmas, so I decided to invite local guests to feel less homsick on a holiday that plays on the emotional heartstrings so much. But, I also realized that a party, a “Festa,” on a work night could be a bit problematic, so I thought about moving my celebration to the weekend. But what would be the point?
On the 4th Thursday in November is when I would be wistfully thinking about all of my American friends and loved ones, eating turkey and celebrating one of my favorite holidays without me — not the weekend before or after. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of my Thanksgiving dinner was that I didn’t I want to spend the actual holiday on my own?
One of my worst Thanksgivings was spent in the Frankfurt international airport , on the phone with my then-college aged son back home with the rest of our extended family having the traditional turkey dinner. I was flying from an organic Agriturismo farm in Puglia, Italy where I had stayed for several months to Thailand for a few weeks before Christmas, in my own “Eat, Pray but not Love” adventure during my divorce, 10 years ago. It had been a year of changes and highs and lows. Holding back tears as I spoke to my son, 4000 miles away, on that lonely Thanksgiving, was definitely one of the lows…
So, I was determined to have a festive Thanksgiving, on the actual day of the American holiday this year at my wonderful new home in Montefino. And, although my closest loved ones would be far away from me, it turned out to be a pretty great one. But I also learned some of the limitations of having this particular holiday in rural Italy. And if am going to spend other Thanksgiving holidays here at Montefino in the future, putting together a social gathering more like a traditional American Thanksgiving is going to be a process.
When I first spoke to people about inviting them over for Thanksgiving, they had some ideas about our quintessentially North American holiday, but they did not understand that it was not on a set date and it definitely wasn’t something that I could move to the weekend. It was hard to explain that it was on the fourth Thursday in November and and almost always a daytime celebration. And that Americans generally made it a weeklong or at least a four day weekend celebration if they possibly could. This is what probably makes it possible for busy Americans to still celebrate this labor intensive, high calorie, family and football-filled day!
(Anyway, Italians don’t really need a special national holiday for these things; here it is simply Sunday dinner.)
But Italians are also unfailingly polite and kind so I think they knew that this was very important to me. My friends very sweetly said that they would at least try to come by and I think some of them knew that eating, at least something would be necessary to help me be less homesick on that day.To make sure that no one felt bad, I painstakingly put together this invitation, to let them know they were welcome to come for a drink or for dinner or whatever they wanted. They were just welcome to stop by and help brighten up what otherwise would’ve been a lonely Thanksgiving without my family.
Thanksgiving may not seem Italian one the surface but welcoming newcomers and helping them get settled into their home certainly is. So I guess I had a REAL Thanksgiving at Fonte Della Monache, in the most pure sense. Grazie, Italia! Thank you for making me feel welcome. Thank you for your warmth, your friendship, your beauty, and for your endless patience. Italians show settlers like me the spirit of Thanksgiving every day!