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  • A Thanksgiving Love Story
    Introducing Thanksgiving to Italians helped this writer build a relationship with her now husband
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving. Four years ago, when my cousin Fausto and his friend Antonio (who is now my husband) chose to visit the United States for the first time for Thanksgiving, I was delighted. It was a chance to share my country's number one holiday - the parade, the turkey, the football - with those who had never experienced it before.

    It was all I could think about - and it turned out to be better than I ever could have imagined. In fact, Christmas was my favorite holiday until I introduced Thanksgiving to my Italian family - and Antonio and I fell in love over mashed potatoes and apple pie. Sweet, delicious love!

    Fausto and Antonio didn't even realize they would be in the States for Thanksgiving, which they call “il giorno del ringraziamento”, when they booked their flight. They were just hoping to arrive in time to see New York dressed up for the Christmas season. They arrived at JFK on the Monday before Thanksgiving - and ended up partaking in all the rituals that come with this particular holiday. On Tuesday, they helped us prepare for the homecoming of other relatives, including my sister and her friend, who were away at college.

    Then, on Wednesday, they photographed me, as I made apple pies from scratch, and my mom, as she whipped up sweet potatoes. On Thanksgiving morning, before packing up our share of Thanksgiving dinner and heading to Long Island to be with our extended family, we all watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Antonio and I famously shared our first kiss the day before, and we held hands as the floats passed by our television screen.

    By 11 a.m., we were all packed into the car on our way from New Jersey to Long Island. We went right through the George Washington Bridge with the American flag proudly hanging and swaying from it in the wind. When we arrived at my uncle's house for Thanksgiving dinner, we retired to the living room for antipasto and Antonio and Fausto delightedly played the grand piano (if you could call it playing). Still, we shared a few laughs and worked our way into the dining room for the real eating.

    Being an Italian American family that didn't always celebrate Thanksgiving (my aunt notoriously cooked her first Thanksgiving turkey with the plastic bag filled with giblets and turkey parts still inside the bird), we always serve lasagna and meatballs and other main dishes in addition to the turkey. Antonio and Fausto devoured everything they saw. They ate and laughed and ate and talked and ate and played cards. They both really enjoyed the turkey.

    They fit right in with the Americans. Really, the Thanksgiving tradition of lingering over a well-thought-out and homemade meal with family and friends is quite an Italian concept. It's how Italians celebrate every meal every day. Antonio and Fausto probably felt most at home on Thanksgiving. But I don't think they really understood the historical significance of the holiday. When I tried to explain who the Pilgrims were, they looked at me as though I were an alien. I probably should have told them before they were comatose by turkey.

    Regardless, they were taken with the holiday. The Thanksgiving celebration combined with the fall foliage in jewel tones, squirrels scurrying about gathering acorns, and the start of holiday shopping seduced them. Antonio returned every year afterward to court me - and celebrate his new favorite holiday.

    In honor of our love of Thanksgiving - the time of year when we came together - we will be celebrating this year with many of our friends and family from Italy. They will be joining us for a Thanksgiving-themed vow renewal (we recently wed in Italy). We can hardly wait to introduce the holiday to a new batch of Italians who have yet to experience turkey day - and to fall in love with each other and Thanksgiving all over again!

    Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com.

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