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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

More Than Turkey and Cranberries

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Thanksgiving is usually thought of as a purely American holiday with Protestant religious origins celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. But I think that it can be (and even should be) celebrated by people of any religion Ч or of none Ч on any date and in any country.

The sole idea behind this holiday is to count your blessings. From day to day, we focus on what needs to be done, whatТs lacking, whoТs to blame. This is only natural, of course, but itТs worthwhile taking at least one day off each year to focus on whatever is good about life.

I donТt miss most of the holiday trappings that I grew up with in America like the Thanksgiving Day parade or 12 hours of football on television. Now that I live abroad, IТm even thankful that I donТt have to go through the panic buying of the Christmas shopping season that starts Friday. But I would be sad if I couldnТt have a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. I love turkey and cranberry sauce.

Since moving to Russia, I usually celebrate Thanksgiving by inviting friends over on the Saturday following the U.S. holiday, roasting a turkey and making cranberry sauce from fresh klyukva. If I can find yams or pumpkin pie, so much the better. My own blessings include a wonderful wife, patient parents, interesting work and interesting people to work with. I also feel lucky to live in one of the great cities in the world.

Most markets these days carry turkey at reasonable prices, but on my first Thanksgiving here, I could only find an expensive imported turkey. I didnТt buy any cranberries because they looked so different from their American cousins. I checked my dictionary and made several trips around the city, but couldnТt find yams. Our oven was too small and the water was turned off just as I was preparing to cook. But by using some pickle juice, a little vodka and the water left in the kettle, I was able to fix the meal.

Many Russians may wonder what they have to be thankful for, but most people have family and friends, a home, work or something else special in their lives. Of course, many people in Russia are homeless or are wondering where their next meal will come from. Thanksgiving may be a good excuse for the rest of us to think about what we can do to help them out.

In general, though, Russians have many things to be thankful for. However slowly, the economy is moving forward. People are adapting to new ways of doing things. The country has an elected president, supported by a large majority of the people and an elected Duma that actively participates in governing the country. The concept of the rule of law is no longer condemned as "bourgeois legalism," but is the stated goal of the president. Pensions have been raised and a social safety net may soon be put in place again. Many Russians are able to travel freely around the world, can surf the Internet, read foreign newspapers and get news from competing media.

No, life is never perfect, but thereТs still much to be thankful for. To all who celebrate my favorite holiday, whenever and however you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving.

Peter Ekman is a financial educator based in Moscow. He welcomes e-mail.