With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I've been thinking a lot about the US lately, and what I miss. France in a lot of ways isn't that far culturally from the US (it's still a Western culture after all). But there's no Thanksgiving here. And not really Halloween. Also, no apple picking or apple orchards. And pumpkin flavored anything? Not a thing. French people actually tend to think pumpkin should only be restricted to salty foods and not sweet.
And all of this got me to thinking - fall is really a celebrated season in the US. It represents a lot, there are holidays that help make it festive and build up to it. I'm sure we all have mental images of what fall brings up. The changing color of the leaves, apple cider, apple picking, choosing a Halloween pumpkin, bonfires, hayrides, etc. Sure a lot of it is idealized (I don't know if I've actually ever gone apple picking), but they are cultural images that we all share. And the more I'm here, the more I realize the weight of that shared cultural knowledge. You don't notice it, or miss it, until it's gone.
My first year really settled here about three years ago, I was really nostalgic during fall. I kept my eyes open for and picked up colorful leaves on the ground. I made homemade fall themed decorations. And I felt a certain longing, probably much more than I ever would have felt in the US, for pumpkin spices and apple cider. Some years, like this year, the season goes by so quickly I don't notice it. And then there's trying to explain it to French people. Unless they've seen it with their own eyes, they can't really understand.
As I was complaining about my nostalgia the other day, my husband reminded me that this is part of a yearly cycle for me. Autumn is hard, I always get nostalgic, and feel better when we get to return to the US for Christmas.
This is the kind of 'problem' that there's really no solution for. The ambiance and mythology of fall is, really, just in my mind. But I guess it can be a painful reminder, once again, that I'm not in my home country and that there's knowledge and background that I don't share with people here.
France does have some nice things to offer in the fall. For example, I found that the tree colors I miss at home can be found in the changing leaves of a vineyard. Halloween will probably never feel 'right' here to me, but fall is the wine season here and a moment of lots of festivals and fairs. In November there's the release of the Beaujolais nouveau wine which does have a certain festivity to it.
So this week as I celebrate Thanksgiving, I will most certainly be dealing with some nostalgia. Being far from family and friends, it is a strange holiday to celebrate abroad. Slowly but sure, I'll turn the page on how I think things should be, to accept them for what they are (in a country that I do love living in, that has so much to offer). To all Americans abroad and at home, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!
|An idea of the beautiful colors you can find in vineyards, taken in the nearby Beaujolais|