The table is carefully laid out for the feast with the best china and silverware. All over the town, the smell of roasting turkeys is in the air. The family gathers around the fireplace and tells stories about past Thanksgiving Day dinners as the chill in the air signals the approach of winter.

This could be the scene in any home in America on this day, but this is not America. It’s the village of Munshausen in Luxembourg of all places. Believe it or not, this traditional Thanksgiving scene is repeated all over Europe in places like Northern Germany, Holland, and France.

This is one story of how the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving came to be celebrated in pockets all over Western Europe.


A Safe Haven Amid the Chaos

The Allied advance had liberated tiny Luxembourg from the Nazis in September 1944. While it remained near the front due to the presence of the Siegfried Line of German defenses just across the Our River, Luxembourg became a rear area rest, recreation, and recuperation zone for U.S. military units that were coming off the line. There the troops would be able to sleep indoors until noon, heal from their wounds, take showers, eat three square meals a day, and put some weight back on. The units would be issued fresh uniforms and new equipment, and decimated formations would begin filling up with replacements just arriving from the States. There were even outdoor theaters that played movies in advance of them being shown back in the States. Westerns were very popular.

On November 20, the 28th Infantry Division arrived in Munshausen after the desperate and bloody fighting in the Hurtgen Forest.  The 28th was known as the Keystone Division, comprised of Pennsylvanian National Guard units, which wore on their shoulder the “Keystone” the official symbol of Pennsylvania.  To the Germans who fought against them in the Hurtgen Forest, their insignia came to be known as “The Bloody Bucket.”

Cover of the 28th Division History “28th Roll On”

Arriving in the village, the troops were billeted in tents and even the homes of the local villagers who were grateful to be released from the nightmare of more than four years of German occupation, and had welcomed the Americans as their liberators.

There was a considerable language barrier to be overcome. Though Luxembourg is a tiny country, its citizens speak three languages as the country had been passed back and forth between France in Germany over many centuries of conflict. In parts of the country, they speak German and in others French.  There is also an official language known as Luxembourgish that is supposed to be common to all.