Thanksgiving is a special holiday season that seems almost exclusive to North America. It’s arguably as well celebrated as Easter or Christmas, if not more by some families. This year, why not invite a stranger for Thanksgiving and share the love?

As a child I never really understood the point of Thanksgiving. In England we don’t celebrate it. To be it seems like a day where family get together and you eat a turkey and you bask in how thankful for stuff you are. That’s what we do on Christmas day. So why do it in November, only to do it again a month later? I figured Americans probably just really loved eating turkey.

Then when I was 10 years old I was living in Cambodia, going to an American school and my best friend Liz invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her family. It was strange. In some ways, it was like going over for just a normal Sunday lunch. There weren’t crackers to pull, no presents to be exchanged. It wasn’t like Christmas at all.

On the other hand, everyone was full of holiday spirit. It had that same sort of hue you get when everyone’s happy and celebrating. It felt really warm. Liz and her family are pretty religious and so we held hands and said grace. After that everyone took turns to tell each other what they were thankful for. It was really nice, simply hearing people voice their appreciation for the family and friends and life.

I left that day not completely sure I really understood the holiday, but certainly more appreciative of it. It seemed like a cool thing to do. I was very happy that Liz invited and shared the experience with me.

Fast forward 8 years and I’m sat at home, reading a book. It’s just another normal day. I get a message pop up on Skype.

“Hey Harriet! Today’s Thanksgiving and my family and I were just remembering that time you came and celebrated it with us. Just wanted to send you quick message to tell you I’m thankful that we’re friends, that we got to meet, and that we’ll always be friends. Enjoy Thanksgiving!”

It was such a lovely message to receive out the blue. To be remembered by a friend who lived on the other side of the world. To be thanked. I realised I was also very thankful to be Liz’s friend and that night I made turkey meatballs for dinner.

A large part of my life I have felt very isolated and alone. My family moved around a lot. I was a difference race to most people in the small english towns and cities we lived. I felt disconnected to my culture, heritage and family in Vietnam. Sometimes, even now, I get feelings of loneliness. But Liz helped me feel welcomed and loved, even from another continent with just a text and a memory.

You can help someone too

I think of all the Holidays, Thanksgiving is the easiest to share with a stranger. Or someone who’s not part of your family. There isn’t a pressure to have presents ready, and it’s mostly based around one meal. For those reasons it’s a perfect time to help someone simply by sharing a meal.

Not everyone is able to spend time with their family on Thanksgiving. Some live too far away, some don’t have family to share it with. Other people are simply alone. Maybe they are foreign and new to Thanksgiving like I was. For whatever reasons, there are a lot of people who go through the holiday by themselves, but you can change that.

I know a lot of families already open up their doors on Thanksgiving. It’s not unusual anymore, especially since the internet has made it so easy to connect with people. It’s a great chance to connect with someone else and learn their story. For some families, it also distracts them from internal family strife. For many, it’s become a family tradition, showing that it can be quite fun to invite a stranger for Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to invite a stranger for Thanksgiving, you can invite a friend like Liz did with me. Anyone you know who might not have someone else to share the holiday with. It’s a great time to reconnect with people.