Thanksgiving Abroad: Dancing the Night Away in St. Petersburg

Thanksgiving Abroad: Dancing the Night Away in St. Petersburg

From the time I was 12 years old, I knew that I would study abroad in college.  For many years, I was so gung-ho about living life in another country and becoming totally immersed in a different culture. But it never dawned on me that during my time abroad I would miss parts of my American upbringing.  That was until I arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, to spend an academic year there.

In my opinion, I think that it has become a little harder to be abroad for extended periods of time because of social media.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can open up Facebook and see pictures of friends who are enjoying life in different parts of the world.  But when you’ve been abroad for a couple of months and everyone who is stateside constantly posts status updates in November about meet ups with high school friends that you typically get to see this time of the year or photos of a beautifully set table with all of the Turkey Day fixings, the fact that you are not with your family and friends is perpetually driven home. Or at least it was for me.

But it never dawned on me that during my time abroad I would miss parts of my American upbringing.

Thanksgiving in Russia
Anne in St. Petersburg

I think that a lot of the other students who were in Russia with me felt the same way.  Although many of us were going home for Christmas, we were not for Thanksgiving, which was arguably an equally important holiday for us.  When we got to school in the morning, we’d check our various social media accounts and see posts like “One week until Thanksgiving! Can’t wait to be home!”, “Who else is going to meet up at the bar when they’re back?” and who could forget “OMG I GET TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEK SO EXCITED!!!!!”  Or we’d call home and various family members would talk about this year’s plans and how they were really going to miss us at dinner.  Needless to say, all of this was a real downer.  We needed a distraction.  Enter Thanksgiving Prom.

On the evening of Thanksgiving, we got all dressed up for a night out on the town.  Sadly (or thankfully? I still can’t decide), there were no prom dresses, rented tuxes, or corsages.

Our student coordinator had an ongoing DJ’ing/band gig at a local club not too far from the Church on Spilled Blood.  We’d gather there when he was playing to drink cheap beer, order pizza from the back room, and dance the night away.  When approached with the idea of throwing a Thanksgiving Prom, he was all for it.  He talked to the club owners and they allowed us to decorate one of the walls with hand turkeys and balloons.

On the evening of Thanksgiving, we got all dressed up for a night out on the town.  Sadly (or thankfully? I still can’t decide), there were no prom dresses, rented tuxes, or corsages.  But everyone looked fantastic and was ready to have a great night.  I knew it was going to be a unique Thanksgiving experience, especially when the evening started out with me navigating the iced-over sidewalks and almost getting hit by a falling icicle.  Having traditionally spent my Thanksgivings in the Mid-Atlantic, these are not things you usually deal with at the end of November.

thanksgiving in Russia
A unique Thanksgiving celebration

Thanksgiving Abroad: Dancing the Night Away in St. Petersburg

When we walked into the club, there was an entire table covered in paper, markers, and tape so that we could make hand turkeys to plaster the wall with.  And everyone got really into it.  Trying to explain the concept of hand turkeys to some very confused Russians is something I will never forget.  One of my fellow students started the night out by DJ’ing for us, which was awesome.  We also voted for Prom King and Queen, and the winners were announced and crowned towards the end of the evening.  That was also a little confusing to the Russians in the crowd, but they were good sports about it.  We were having so much fun that it made up for not being at home for one of the biggest American holidays.

That was also a little confusing to the Russians in the crowd, but they were good sports about it.

One of my favorite sayings is, “when life give you lemons, make lemonade.”  Of course we added a little vodka to the lemonade because it is Russia after all!  And I like to think that we successfully turned the Turkey Day lemons we were presented with into lemonade with a Russian twist by throwing our Thanksgiving Prom.  So while there was no sharing a stuffed bird with loved ones or going around the table and saying what we were thankful for that year, my Thanksgiving in Russia was one of my favorites and most memorable holiday celebrations.

 

About Anne Rathell

Anne RathellCurrently a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, Anne Rathell is always on the lookout for her next adventure.  When she’s not planning her next trip, you can find her in the kitchen baking, practicing yoga at her favorite studio, attempting to learn a new language, or curled up on the couch with her dog.  Feel free to follow her international travels on Anne’s Adventures Abroad.

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