As expat rock dwellers, we have to pick and choose the holidays we go home for – we can’t have ’em all. Christmas is mine. I won’t miss it. Maybe someday when we live farther away I might have to, but not while we’re on a rock where a 4-hour flight is the only thing standing between me and my delightfully chilly home for the holidays. Unfortunately, this means that many other holidays, such as Thanksgiving, are off the table for traveling for me.
Our first year on the rock, we knew Thanksgiving away from home would be hard. We had just had our first baby and up until that year, we had never missed a Thanksgiving with Husband’s family or mine. I vividly remember stifling a cry in the bathroom when I got off the phone with my mom that morning. “We all miss you here,” she said, “This is the first Thanksgiving in 30 years I’ll spend without you.” Knife. Turn. Ouch. But I knew that this was part and parcel of the expat lifestyle I had signed up for when moving to this island.
And in all reality, it didn’t actually end up being that hard in the end (knife in heart excluded), due to some strategic planning by our fellow expats.
See, most of our island friends also choose to stay on the rock for Turkey Day, so we throw a big family dinner together. We make turkey. Everyone brings a side dish or dessert. We feast. Our kids play together. We’ve organized flag football and volleyball games. We drink wine.
Oh, and did I mention we all take our long weekend break at this place…
So there’s that. And while Husband and I certainly still miss home, we are thankful for our beachier version of the Norman Rockwell painting and for this tradition that had been created long before our family ever arrived. So thankful, in fact, that Husband and I wanted to contribute by injecting some of our own traditions too – ones that would help other rock expats not miss home so much on Gobble Day.
So last year, on Black Friday (when everyone in the states was mid-line at Kohl’s with two full shopping carts, looking for the greatest deals in The Universe), our group of 40+ island friends met up on the beach, wearing team colors in our adult version of school spirit. The Green Team. The Blue Team. The Red Team. The White Team (that decided they wanted to be Fuchsia, but that’s a whole different story).
Our scoreboard was ready. Our supplies were gathered. Our spirits were high. It was time to start our first annual Thanksgiving Olympics.
And because it was EPIC, I thought I’d share some ideas with you, in case you’d like to throw your own Thanksgiving Beach Olympics to play with your island family on your own little rock:
Game 1: Bucket Brigade
Objective: Put a ping pong ball in a small, empty tub/bucket. You must fill the tub/bucket with water as a team, using only one red solo cup until the ball flows out on its own. No splashing the ball out.
How to Play: Your team stands in a line. The first person runs the solo cup from the front of the line to the ocean and fills up the cup with water. The cup gets passed up the line to the last person who dumps the water into the tub, runs the empty cup back to the ocean and fills it with water. Then, they pass the cup up the line again to the next person who will dump it, run, fill it, and pass it. This is continued until the bucket fills up so high with water that the ping pong ball flows out. Once the ball flows out, the team runs to their hula hoop boundary area and digs in the sand until they find their team flag.
Warning: This game is waaaaay more exhausting than I thought it was going to be, but was a great opener to the Olympic Games!
Game 2: Water Balloon Toss
Objective: Don’t drop the balloon.
How to Play: Your team separates into pairs. Form two lines: one partner on each side. Everyone starts close together and tosses the balloon back and forth. For every successful catch, the players move one step farther away from each other. The last pair standing with balloons intact wins points for their team.
Warning: You might get wet.
Game 3: Team Relay Race
How to Play: Since this was a team relay, we needed enough relays within the race for most people to participate. The relay started with a person crab-walking, who then switched off to someone waiting in a potato sack, who then tagged the two people participating in the wheelbarrow. When the wheelbarrow-ers got to the other end, the partners tied up for the 3-legged race, sprinted their fastest to the person ready with their dizzy bat, who then ran to the last person responsible for army crawling across the finish line.
Warning: Requires lots of cheering to keep the energy up – prepare for tons o’ fun!
Game 4: Tug O’ War
Objective: A flag is tied onto the center of a rope. Your team must pull their side of the rope onto their side until the flag crosses the line.
How to Play: Tug. Hard. Really Hard.
Warning: Holy God. You will hurt after this. Bad. For days. Maybe months.
Game 5: Name that Tune
Objective: Guess the name (and artist) of a given song.
How to Play: We’re fortunate to have an in-house musical genius, so he prepared 10 songs for us… on his trumpet. He played each song and the teams worked together to name the song and artist before the opposing teams.
Warning: It sounds easy, but it can be made harder when you have to also guess the composer/artist. It’s a great game to play when everyone needs a break after a fitness-challenge event like Tug O’ War.
Game 6: Human Horse Shoes
Objective: Ring the person with a hula hoop.
How to Play: Each team picked a ringer. This person stood about 10-20 feet from their team. Each player on the team had two shots to ring the ringer with a hula hoop. For every hoop touching the ringer, the team earned a point. For every hula hoop to ring the ringer, the team earned two points. The ringer was allowed to move their body but not their feet to help ring the hula hoop.
Warning: The smallest people on each team were picked as ringers. Watch your faces, littl’ens.
Game 7: Pie Eating
Objective: Find two peanuts in a tray of whipped cream.
How to Play: Another team hides two peanuts in a tray and then covers it with whipped cream. One player from each team must face dive into the whipped cream pie pan and scoop out the two peanuts with their mouths, spitting them into their cup.
Warning: This gets super gross. Like, really – Super. Gross.
– – –
Thanksgiving Olympics was a ton of fun. Now that you’re equipped with my handy little gamer’s guide, I hope some of you decide to throw your own. And if you do, I’d love to know about any games you played, see your pictures, and hear your best memories. Now get planning, Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Gobble, gobble y’all.
What do you do to keep the expat-missing-home-blues at bay on your rock over the holidays?
Want to stay connected to the Land of Coconuts?
We'll send you island mail, fresh from the tropics each week.