Thanksgiving is typically a family holiday. We get a dayaway from school or work, gather around family tables, eat copious amounts offood, and generally enjoy each other’s company. Though my biological family iscurrently thousands of miles away in Indiana, I still got to enjoy all thesethings (accept the day off, of course!) with my other family, my Harlaxtonfamily. Though we may not be related by blood, I am fully convinced thatHarlaxton creates families away from our biological ones.
When I first signed up to study aboard for a semester, I wasworried about being away from my family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Eventhough I knew that I would be home by Christmas, Thanksgiving is a wonderfulgathering for my family, and I would be the first person to miss it in years. Iwas worried that I would simply spend the holiday going to school andforgetting that there even was a holiday.
It’s not even that far-fetched of an idea to forget aboutThanksgiving over here. As soon as Halloween was over, the Christmasdecorations started coming out. While I was in Bath the last full weekend ofOctober, I saw some people busily hanging lights over the main roadways. Whenasked about it, out taxi driver assured us that they wouldn’t be turned on justyet, but it was still so interesting to consider. No Thanksgiving leads to avery interesting start to the Christmas season.
Just as we were beginning to get into the Christmas spirit,I was reminded of Thanksgiving, thanks to Facebook of all things. My variousfriends from home were commenting how ready they were for Thanksgiving break tobegin; there were status about driving home and seeing family that they hadn’tseen in a year. And it was challenging. Hearing of family gatherings is always hardwhen you can’t be a part of them. But we did what we always do at Harlaxton: wemake it work.
After a normal Thursday full of classes and meetings, wegathered in the Great Hall for a short Thanksgiving service. The atmosphere wasperfect. There was a fire crackling in the fireplace for the first time thisyear, and we participated in a simple service led by students. As the servicedrew to a close, people were invited to stand and share something that theywere thankful for. It was really touching, as people commented about beingthankful for their families, both back home and here at Harlaxton, for (mostly)warm beds, and for friends that put up with you through the thick and thin.
When the moment was over, we all filled into the StateDining Room, where the kitchen staff had done their best to make an American Thanksgivingdinner. We gathered our food and sat in the Long Gallery with our families awayfrom home. We talked, poked fun at one another, and simply enjoyed being ingood company, just as we would on a normal Thanksgiving day. As the eveningbegan to wind down, my little Harlaxton family and I played our own round of “Whatare you thankful for”. The responses were incredibly touching, and I would belying if I said there weren’t a few tears shed.
So yes, I had a new Thanksgiving experience this year. Ispent it thousands of miles away from my biological family. But I also learnedthat Harlaxton gives you a new kind of family where the bonds are just asstrong as the ones you have with your family back home. So I’d like to closeout this blog post with a quick note to my Harlaxton family about how thankfulI am for them, and I invite you to leave your own things that you are thankfulfor in the comments.
I am thankful for my family, both at home and here atHarlaxton. We’ve been through so much together over these last 3 months (canyou believe it’s really only been 3 months?). But through thick and thin, we’vemanaged to grow so much closer. Sure, sometimes we get on each other’s nerves,and we think that we can’t wait to get out of this place. But isn’t that whatfamily is all about? Thank you so much for making this an experience I’ll neverforget, and giving me a true home away from home.