Giving thanks in Kunming (感恩节)

Happy Thanksgiving from Kunming, China! Two years ago in Dalian, I celebrated Thanksgiving at a fancy hotel buffet where I ate turkey, tacos, and some smoked salmon (for good measure). Last year in Kunming, I went to a potluck with too many people and not enough food. So this year, I decided that I was due to host my very own Thanksgiving and do it right! In the end, we had 17 people in our tiny living room, but it ended out working pretty well.

Mmm, food!

I drafted up a dream menu and assigned people things to bring, and we had a wonderful spread of all the Thanksgiving favorites… and then some! I had some kitchen helpers to prep before the big dinner, and we had every cooking appliance in use: the microwave, the single burner, the oven, the electric hot plate, and a pressure cooker, too! Everyone really pulled their own weight and it was amazing to see all of the food come together. The turkey was a pricey little bugger, but worth it! I froze some leftover turkey soup to get out again in a few weeks.

The spread! We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, three different kinds of sweet potatoes, green beans, pasta with roasted veggies, stuffing, spinach salad with nuts and blue cheese, beef stew, chicken wings, foccacia bread… and I’m probably forgetting some things!

For me, Thanksgiving is a special holiday, but not one that I’m particularly attached to. Growing up abroad, each year’s Thanksgiving was a little different. Sometimes we had lots of people over, sometimes it was just the five of us, and sometimes we would go to a hotel or someone else’s house. Sometimes we celebrated on Thanksgiving day, and sometimes the holiday got pushed to the weekend after, when people didn’t have to work. When I went back to the US for college, I got to enjoy some “true” American thanksgiving celebrations with extended family that were crazy (50+ people?) but full of warmth and love. I wanted this year’s Thanksgiving to take all of the best from these different celebrations,

I decided that after we had figured out the food, we needed to figure out how we were going to share what we were thankful for. My apartment came with a random easel that has not been utilized, until now. I bought some post-it notes and colored markers and encouraged people to write down something that they were thankful for. As the night turned on, the notes got a little zanier, but overall, everyone realized that we had a lot to be thankful for. (That might have been due to the cranberry gin and tonics or apple cider bourbons that people were drinking…)

Thankfulness board

The desserts stole the show, in my opinion. Good thing I managed to save some room for lemon cheesecake, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter rice crispie treats with chocolate icing, apple sauce and chocolate kisses. I made the pumpkin pie and crust from scratch, and it turned out perfect! I’ll be making that recipe again soon.


Don’t get between me and my pumpkin pie

People slowly started to leave around 11, after all, most people had to work again on Friday. A few of us sat around and talking and laughing, while complaining about our full stomachs.

The end of the night…

The next day I had a bunch of people over AGAIN to help me put a dent in the leftovers. Even with people taking home doggie bags, and eating lunch, I still have tons of leftovers that I’m slowly trying to work my way through.

Round 2! Leftovers for lunch

Little centerpieces I made. I think they turned out pretty well!

Overall, a great time was had by all. Some people were new to Thanksgiving, some people were missing their families in America, but we were all very thankful to celebrate together! It was an international affair with people from China, Singapore, Italy, Ecuador, and the US. I can’t wait to host again next year, wherever I’ll be!


3 thoughts on “Giving thanks in Kunming (感恩节)

  1. What a wonderful entry to wake up to this morning! You have figured out how to put on a Thanksgiving dinner at such a young age…congratulations! Actually, your photos (and words) are a lot like ours from the last few days. Many people crammed into a too small space, TONS of food, smiling faces with full plates and leftovers! I think we had 48 people this year. I’m very happy for your successful celebration. Love from Mendon!

  2. How very special you made your Thanksgiving! With all the traditional foods and friends plus your “clever easel thanks” you celebrated in style. You were with us in spirit for sure.

  3. We missed you in Mendon, but your description brought tears to my eyes thinking how you made such a special feast for those lucky enough to know you.

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