Olympics of Gobble Proportions

November 3, 2014

(As published on Women Who Live on Rocks.) 

As do other expats, we have to pick and choose the holidays we go home for; we can’t have ’em all. Christmas is mine. Maybe someday, if we live further away, I’ll have to miss it, but for now – living on a rock that is only a 4-hour flight home – expect me home for the holidays and have a glass of coquito* waiting for me by the Christmas pine. What this does mean, unfortunately, is that every other holiday is off the proverbial table, like Thanksgiving for example. 

We knew our first year that 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 either of our families. 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.” Ouch. Insert knife. Turn. I knew she didn’t mean it to upset me; she was simply pointing out an obvious truth, but she was missing me and I was certainly missing her. And in my subconscious core, I knew that this was part of our life abroad equation, part of the decision we signed up for, and one I wasn’t sure I could handle yet.
It turned out that – knife in heart excluded – it wasn’t too hard to enjoy Thanksgiving abroad. See, most of our island friends also choose to stay for Turkey Day so we throw a huge family style feast. We make Turkey. Everyone brings a side dish or dessert. We eat. Our kids play. We’ve organized flag football games and volleyball games. We drink wine.
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 grew ever more thankful for our beachier version of Norman Rockwell’ painting and for this traditional getaway that had been created long before our family ever arrived… but we wanted to add to it, another layer to be grateful for. So last year, on Black Friday when everyone in the states was mid-line at Kohl’s with two full shopping carts, our group of 40+ friends began uniting 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. Supplies gathered. Spirits high. It was time to begin Thanksgiving Beach Olympics.

And it was epic. So I thought I’d share some ideas with you, in case someday, you find yourself in need of a new tradition:
Thanksgiving Olympics

Game 1: Bucket Brigade

Objective: Put a ping pong ball in an empty tub. Fill a small tub with water using one red solo cup until the ball flows out. 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. 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 it, 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.

Warnings: 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 partners. Form two lines: one partner on each side. Everyone starts close together and tosses the balloon. For every successful catch, the players move one step further from each other. The last couple standing with balloons in tact wins points for their team.

Warnings: You might get wet.

Game 3: Team Relay Race


potato sack

Objective: Win.

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 wheelbarrowers 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.

Warnings: cheer a lot! so fun.

Game 4: Tug O’ WarTug OF War

Objective: Tie a flag onto the center of a rope. Your team pulls their side of the rope until the flag crosses the line.

How to Play: Tug. Hard.

Warnings: Holy God. You will hurt after this. Bad. For days. Maybe months.


Game 5: Name that Tune

Objective: Guess the name (and artist) of song.
How to Play: We have an in-house musical genius so he prepared 10 songs for us… on his trumpet. He played the song and teams worked together to name the song and composer.
Warnings: Sounds easy but can be made harder when you add composer/artist. Great game to play when everyone needs a break after a brute game 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.
Warnings: 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 whip cream.

How to Play: Another team hides two peanuts in a tray and then covers it with whip cream. One player from each team must face dive into whip cream and scoop out two peanuts, spitting them into their cup.

Warnings: This gets super gross. Like, really, super gross.

The feedback we got from all of our friends was amazing but even better was hearing the different stories from everyone after the games ended. Stories we still talk about. The daughter of a friend who was our pie eating gladiator. The stepson of a friend who paired up with a pro at water balloon tossing and pulled off an amazing win! Our incredible victory at Tug O’ War against a team we thought we had no business defeating. Best. Win. of. My. Life. See…

 I hope you decide to throw your own Thanksgiving Olympics because it really was a ton of fun. And if you do, I’d love to know about any games you played, see your pictures, or hear your best memories! Gobble, gobble y’all. Gobble, gobble.

Thanksgiving on the beach


~ Until the next bottle ~

     1. Coquito – the Cuban version of egg nog. A coconut-based alcoholic beverage of goodness and divinity.


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