Celebrating Thanksgiving in France as the French do not celebrate Thanksgiving even though many French settled in North America.
The traditional story of Thanksgiving, as celebrated as part of the American and Canadian holiday, is that the special meal was prepared as a thank you to the Indian people for the ingredients and cooking methods they taught the newcomers. Turkey, corn, and sweet potatoes, native to the area where they settled, became the center of this traditional meal.
But if you are an ex-pat living in France or are planning a visit during that time, you can still indulge in turkey day.
If you plan a Thanksgiving feast for your French friends, don’t be surprised if they have no idea what the holiday is about.
When you go shopping, you’ll find turkeys, une dinde in French (don’t use le dindon as that applies to the living animal), sold all over France so there won’t be a problem sourcing the main ingredient. Turkeys are a favorite protein particularly in Licques in North France, which is famous for its annual Turkey Festival held in December.
You will pay a premium for American foods imported to France but as you shop, you’ll probably meet fellow Americans feeling equally nostalgic. There are several stores where you can find familiar holiday foods:
- The Real McCoy is the place for all those ingredients for Thanksgiving. They also stock American favorites like Oreos, Reese’s Pieces, Dr. Pepper and Hershey bars.
Address: 194 Rue de Grenelle, Paris 75007, Tel: 01 45 56 98 82.
- For American groceries and food that you buy online and have delivered, check out My American Market. They have a special section devoted to holiday meal ingredients. If you are near Toulouse, you can visit in person at 12 Rue Louis Courtois De Vicose, Les Arches - Bat. 3, 31100 Toulouse.
Restaurants for Thanksgiving meals
Americans have opened restaurants in Paris and serve up holiday meals attracting visitors and residents alike.
- Restaurant Verjus is the place to reserve a table for an upscale Thanksgiving menu using seasonal ingredients. The restaurant typically hosts a Thanksgiving-themed preset tasting menu and wine pairing during Thanksgiving week. Restaurant Verjus was opened in 2012 by two Americans who have made this a local favorite as well as a home-from-home for visiting Americans. Address: 52, rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris.
- Under the same ownership are a wine bar, Verjus Bar à Vins, 47, rue Montpensier, 75001 Paris, and a third restaurant called Ellsworth, at 34, rue de Richelieu, 75001.
The main booking telephone number for all Verjus restaurants. Tel.: 00 33 (0) 1 42 97 54 40
- Harry’s New York Bar: A historic ex-pat institution, Harry’s Bar was opened on Thanksgiving day, November 26, 1911, by a former American jockey with a New York friend. The bar has seen many famous faces walk through its doors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Dempsey, and Ernest Hemingway. It’s a great fun place.
Address: 5 rue Daunou, 75002 Paris, Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 42 61 71 14,
- Joe Allen: Everybody knows Joe Allen’s, as there are branches throughout the world. The Paris version gives you a real Thanksgiving dinner, but you must book way in advance. Address: 30 rue Pierre Lescot, 75001 Paris, tel.: 00 33 (0)1 42 36 70 13
- Breakfast in America (BIA) has two diners in Paris, ideal for a casual meal. They don't take reservations, so go early.
Address: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris, tel.: 00 33 (0)1 43 54 50 28. 4 rue Malher, 75004 Paris, tel.: 00 33 (0)1 42 72 40 21.
- Learn how to cook your own Thanksgiving Feast in true French style at the cooking school, La Cuisine Paris. The cookery classes are in English. You cook your meal then eat it overlooking the Seine celebrating with glasses of Champagne and wine. Address: 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004, Paris, tel.: 0033 (0)1 40 51 78 18
Thanksgiving Meals Outside Paris
Look for any American-themed bars and restaurants via the website of the city you are visiting. Also, check out the various different American organizations scattered throughout France; you’ll be surprised at how many there are.
- The American Club of the Riviera in Nice holds a Thanksgiving lunch at the Hotel Hermitage, with members of the American Military as guests. More information can be obtained from the club at 50 bd Victor Hugo, Nice, 00 33 (0)4 93 82 01 08.
- Stars ‘n Bars in Monaco, well-known for their burgers, usually holds a Thanksgiving celebration. Reservations by telephone only. Address: 6 Quai Antoine 1er, 98000 Monaco, tel.: 00 33 (3) 77 97 97 95 95,
- The Association Bordeaux-USA, a French-American friendship organization, holds a Thanksgiving dinner at Middle School Alain Fournier, 83 Rue de Saint-Genès, 33000 Bordeaux.
- The American Club of Lyon, a social club for American ex-patriots, usually holds a Thanksgiving dinner where turkey and beverages are provided, but it’s a bring-your-own for the rest of the trimmings that make Thanksgiving such a special, uniquely American celebration. The mailing address is American Club of Lyon, BP 2060, 69226 Lyon Cedex 02.