Thanksgiving is one American holiday that hasn’t crept into Polish culture. The fourth Thursday in November is just another work and school day. It’s a strange feeling to know that your loved ones are gathering on the other side of the world without you. That your extended family’s day will be one of familiar and special traditions while all around you, everyone else is carrying on with their normal day-to-day life. We had several Thankgsgivings in Poland, and celebrated in a lot of different ways. I can’t say that a Thanksgiving abroad is better than one at home surrounded by loved ones; it is different but can be just as memorable.
I didn’t plan anything for Thanksgiving our last year in Poland, but at the last minute, we received two invitations for early Thanksgiving meals on Saturday. They were at different times, so we threw caution and calories to the wind and decided to do both.
Our first meal was with the Poznan International Church, a potluck meal with a very international flavor. There was, of course, turkey. Brooke, my friend from Arizona made sweet potatoes; we brought stuffing, And now it gets interesting; it was an international crowd as the name of the congregation suggests. We had two Indian dishes, some kind of spicy potato dumpling, and and spicy rice. Ed told Prethi, our hostess, it was the best rice he’d ever eaten. I hope she doesn’t think he was exaggerating; he was quite serious. Lots of pies and cakes, and an enourmous tiramisu for dessert. Then we hopped on the tram to make our way to Turkey dinner #2.
Our second meal was with the staff and church family at Sweet Surrender, a ministry coffee shop where I used to volunteer in the kitchen. Our friends Monika (our Polish teacher) and James cooked all day, and again it was an international potluck, with favorites from the USA and as far east as Russia and Kazakstan. I would guess that James is in his mid-twenties. Armed with a degree in Christian Education, he’d come to Poland for a year of coffee shop ministry at Sweet Surrender. Shortly after his arrival, he found himself in charge of the coffee shop and the church. So he was part coffee shop manager, part pastor. He’s a very sharp young man and was up to the tasks.
I was so moved by the simple words he shared before we broke bread. It’s not the food on the plate that matters but the people around the table. He wanted everyone to know that he loved us and that Sweet Surrender loves us. Then he read Bible verses about always giving thanks. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, maybe? Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Amen!
PS – other Thanksgiving posts