Thanksgiving in Hong Kong – Being Away From Home
It was 2003 and it would be my first Thanksgiving in Hong Kong and being away from home. I had moved to China earlier in the year and now came the precious holiday of Thanksgiving. We all know what it means in our hearts, anywhere in the world. Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we all share a time when we want to be with our families, friends, and be home.
But I couldn’t do that being 9000 miles away and having Thanksgiving in Hong Kong.
As the weeks came closer to the holiday I had tried not to think about the date or what it meant. I think I was upset and sad, and a bit homesick. I was just 23 years old and off on a big adventure that I didn’t quite understand yet. I was fortunate to have made some friends in the short time I was in Hong Kong but even for them, they didn’t really want to talk about Thanksgiving.
Finally it dawned on us that we were now in our new home. We were each others new family. If we couldn’t spend Thanksgiving with our families back home, then we would spend Thanksgiving in Hong Kong together. So the questions came up of: Where to eat? Do they even have turkey in Hong Kong? Where do other westerners go for Thanksgiving? And how to find out? This was 2003 and while the Internet was in full swing then, it was no where near as powerful or diverse as it is now.
So the group of us took it upon ourselves to do as much research as possible. I spoke to some coworkers, local Hong Kong people. They suggested Central, Hong Kong. Central is like Downtown, Manhattan. It is filled with westerners, western style restaurants, bars, pubs, places to relax and hang out. There must be a place there!
Surprisingly, then, not as much as one would have thought. It turns out, as we all learned, that the turkey is usually replaced with chicken as the choice of meat. Any turkey would have to have been flown in (first class?) from the States and would be too costly for most restaurants, even for Thanksgiving in Hong Kong!
So we scoured around Central, Lan Kwai Fong, Soho and found about a handful of restaurants that would actually have turkey! But! We were too late… Turns out, people book months in advance for a seat and a slice of that delicious turkey and gravy.
Now being the day of Thanksgiving, we all met at the bottom of the hill of Lan Kwai Fong, depressed. It then dawned on us that Thanksgiving is really about, well, yes Turkey, but being grateful for what you do have and we had each other, we had our adventures, and we were in Hong Kong! With a renewed spirit, we walked up into Soho and found a quant little restaurant.
We banged (being the rowdy American cowboys that we were) on the table and demanded the best Turkey substitute! It was after all, finally, Thanksgiving in Hong Kong!
After a few eyebrows raised by the waiter, the cook came out (perhaps a big nervous, too). He was most distressed about not having Turkey. But he did blow away our minds by saying he did have chickens roasted the way one makes a turkey. We all looked at each other and smiled!
It was good enough!
So we enjoyed our chickens cooked like turkey’s. Enjoyed our friendship, thought of home and our new lives being in Hong Kong.
This year I am thankful for my wonderful wife, our 2 year old daughter and our families. Even though we are in NY this year celebrating the feast, and with turkey, I will always remember that day and what those memories meant to me having Thanksgiving in Hong Kong.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving, happy holidays, and a wonderful winter.