How to Make it Through Your First Thanksgiving Away From Home

Spending the holiday solo in a new city can be tough — but it's also a great way to get acclimated to your new home.

By
Jordan Teicher
On Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 16:10
Moving Stories Thanksgiving

For people finding their way in a new city, Thanksgiving might seem like an obvious time to leave town and embrace the comforts of family. But for some, sticking out the holiday in a new home can can lead to new friends and great experiences. 

After studying history and photojournalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Daniel Sircar, age 25, worked for a few years in his home state. But he always had his eye on New York City, the city he considered the “media capital of the world.” Early last fall, he finally got a job in the Big Apple as a photo editor and video producer at NBC.

It wasn’t the easiest landing. Sircar had moved on November 1 with just a single suitcase and his camera bag. He didn’t have a dresser or a lamp in his bedroom, nor a single pot or pan with which to cook. He slept in a sleeping bag on top of a mattress on the floor.

Since he was still so new in town, Sircar only had a few friends in the city, and as Thanksgiving approached, he considered going home to North Carolina to celebrate. But after consulting his sisters and his parents, who were scattered across the country, the family decided they’d postpone a reunion until Christmas. Sircar’s back-up plan wasn’t ideal.

“I was probably just going to eat a cold pizza at my apartment by myself,” he says.

New Friends to the Rescue 

A few weeks before the holiday, however, two of Sircar’s closest friends in the city – a friend from school, Reiley, and her boyfriend, Steve – saved the day. They invited him to a dinner their friend Eric Isaac, a photographer specializing in food, was hosting at his apartment in Brooklyn. Sircar didn’t need too much convincing to come along, but when he got an email detailing the full menu Isaac had planned – which included two kinds of turkey, a house cocktail and a smorgasbord of delicious sides and appetizers – he was completely sold on the idea. 

“The fact that it was going to be this epic spread was the metaphorical cherry on top – or the cranberry spread on top, to be more seasonal,” he says.

Isaac’s apartment was warm and inviting, a “light at the end of the tunnel” after Sircar’s first rough few weeks in New York. The host had invited his family, and as relatives chopped vegetables in the kitchen, children played around the apartment and others watched football on TV, the place had the feeling of home.

“It wasn’t just a bunch of broke, sad millennials sitting around trying to collectively eat a pumpkin custard out of a tin. It was a proper family affair,” he says.

Since last Thanksgiving, Sircar has moved to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, where he has a proper kitchen, friendly neighbors and a better handle on city life. He’s not sure yet how he’s going to spend the holiday this year, but he says he doesn’t plan on going to North Carolina.

“Maybe I’ll try to invite some new friends to my new place,” he says.

Finding a Bit of Home in a New Town

Katie Gray, age 23, moved to New York for an internship at THEVERYMANY art and architecture studio early last fall, and since she’d already planned to take two weeks off for Christmas, she knew she needed to stay in town for Thanksgiving. The two guys she was living with in Williamsburg, Brooklyn invited her to celebrate the holiday with them in Boston, Mass., but the day before she was set to drive north with them, weather reports predicted a big snowstorm. Braving potentially treacherous roads didn’t seem like a good idea.

“I just decided I was going to stay in New York and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade,” she says. 

But Gray’s first Thanksgiving away from family turned out to be a lot more interesting than she expected. The same day she dropped out of the Boston trip, her father told her that a few people from Bowling Green, Ky., her hometown, were going to be in New York for the holiday. When she texted one of the guys from the group, he invited her to spend the day with them. The next morning, she joined the eight Kentuckians for a meal at Peter Luger Steak House in Williamsburg.

“It was really nice to meet all of them and get a little piece of home because I hadn’t been home in months,” she says. 

Later in the day, she joined the group for a performance of the Rockettes’ Radio City Christmas Spectacular and a basketball game at Madison Square Garden, where Western Kentucky University’s team was playing. The next day, she met up with a few people from the group for a performance of Kinky Boots on Broadway, and in the evening she ended up with an invite to a Friendsgiving celebration with fellow architects in Queens. Gray is an only child, and spending her first Thanksgiving away from her parents was initially daunting, but she said going solo proved surprisingly rewarding.

“I had such a fun time. I thought I was going to be eating McDonald's in my apartment,” she says. 

Gray now lives in Nashville, Tenn., and is again adjusting to life in a new city. She’s still in touch with many of the friends she made last Thanksgiving, and in Tennessee, she’s befriended many of her colleagues who have been showing her around town after work. 

“If you’ve ever heard of Southern hospitality, it’s very true. Everyone’s really nice,” she says. 

Though she’ll be reuniting with her parents at her grandmother’s house in Madisonville, Ky., for Thanksgiving this year, she said the idea of spending the holiday on her own sometime in the future doesn’t scare her – and others needn’t find the idea intimidating either.

“Just be a little more outgoing and have an open mind. You can meet some really interesting people, go to some great new places and have a fantastic time even if you’re away from family,” she says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan G. Teicher is a freelance journalist and critic based in Brooklyn. He writes regularly for Slate and Wired.