(CNN) - It
(CNN) - It
was November 1997 and Dina Honor was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.
The then 27-year-old had invited a group of New York friends who, like her, had decided to stay in town for the holidays.
It had been a difficult year for Honor: she had suffered from depression after a bad relationship.
"Little by little he had regained the feeling of normality and was not looking for love," Honor told CNN Travel today.
Instead, Honor was focused on hosting her friends for the holidays.
He had set the dining room table in the two-bedroom apartment they shared in Brooklyn.
His sister had traveled from Boston.
He spent the whole morning mashing potatoes and roasting the turkey.
He had asked each guest to bring something to contribute to the meal.
Soon her friends began arriving, carrying holiday good news, cornbread, pies, and cranberry sauce.
Then Honor opened the door for a friend, only to find that he was arriving with two mysterious guests.
It wasn't the kind of gathering where surprise escorts are welcome.
"I was not happy," remembers Honor.
"But then I saw it and said 'Okay'."
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Thanksgiving Romance: American Dina Honor met British Richard Steggall when he snuck into her Thanksgiving dinner in November 1997. They hit it off quickly and began a long-distance romance.
They are pictured the following Valentine's Day, when Honor visited Steggall in London.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Millennium Proposal: The couple got engaged at a New Years Eve party on December 31, 1999. This photo was taken just after Steggall proposed to her as the clock struck midnight.
Honor said yes.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Instant Connection: "From the beginning, I was wowed by Dina," says Steggall.
Honor says the sentiment was mutual: "Sounds made up, doesn't it? The tall, dark stranger who comes to your door on Thanksgiving."
Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Wedding in New York: The couple got married in New York in April 2001 in a place called the Manhattan Penthouse, on Fifth Avenue, overlooking the New York skyline.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Settle in: The couple lived together in New York for ten years and had two children.
Here they are with their oldest son in 2004. Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Globetrotting family: The couple later started a new chapter when they moved their young family to Cyprus in 2008. They later moved to Copenhagen.
Here they are together in Denmark in 2018. Courtesy of Dina Honor
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Family photo: The couple's story of meeting on Thanksgiving has become "part of our family tradition," Honor says.
Here they are with their two children in early 2021. Courtesy of Dina Honor
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The Couple Today: Thanksgiving is still a big holiday for both of them.
"It's always a date on the calendar where we start to reflect on our lives and what's happened and everything, the whole story from start to finish," says Steggall.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
"He" was Richard Steggall, a 25-year-old Briton who was on vacation in New York for the first time.
He had traveled to the United States with a good friend who had a brother who lived in New York.
This brother was a friend of Honor and had been invited to her party.
"At the time I didn't know what Thanksgiving was, to be honest, I had no idea," Steggall says today.
"Having grown up in the UK, I was vaguely aware, but had no idea what the party meant at all."
See how they celebrate Thanksgiving from space
Steggall and his friends had spent their vacations soaking up New York, partying at night and exploring the sights during the day.
On the morning of November 27, they had gotten up late, having gone out the night before.
They were looking for a place to eat.
The American in the group explained that it was a national holiday and that most restaurants would be closed.
"But I know of a party where there might be food," he said.
"That's what he proposed to us," recalls Steggall.
"We had no idea that it was going to be a semi-formal Thanksgiving dinner, much like Christmas in the UK."
Steggall had the first inkling that going uninvited was a blunder when he saw Honor's expression as he opened the door.
But he was also instantly captivated.
"From the beginning, Dina captivated me," she says today.
The feeling was mutual.
Honor's frustration with unexpected guests was quickly tempered by his instant attraction to Steggall.
"I found him very, very handsome," she says.
"Sounds made up, right? The tall dark stranger who comes to your door on Thanksgiving."
She led the 'colados' to the apartment.
Steggall and his British partner, feeling uncomfortable, tried to be as discreet as possible.
"The other guest and I hid in a corner to be inconspicuous," says Steggall.
From his place in the corner, Steggall watched Honor pacing the room.
"I thought she was beautiful. For me, who came from London, she was a New York woman," he says.
"She was strong, self-confident, a little loud, but funny ... she just exuded life. And she had a crush on me from the start."
Steggall asked some of the guests about Honor, but did not speak to her directly: he did not want to upset the hostess he had already offended by arriving uninvited.
Their flights were canceled, so they spent 24 hours falling in love with each other
Meeting With Pumpkin Pie
At dessert time, Honor approached Steggall with a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a quintessential Thanksgiving dessert that is uncommon in the UK.
Steggall had never tried it before and gladly agreed.
The two of them started talking.
Honor, who loves literature, dropped a reference to Shakespeare's Ophelia in the conversation.
Steggall got it: he knew "Hamlet," he said.
"It was like a little light was turned on," says Honor.
"There aren't many guys you meet at a party, between beer and pumpkin pie, who are happy to have a conversation about 'Hamlet.'
The two spent the rest of the night talking, quickly bonding.
"I think we had a lot in common in terms of our outlook on life, and the things that were important to us as people and human beings, and the way we see the world, and the things we want out of life," he says. Steggall.
When they finished dinner, the group went to a bar.
There, Honor and Steggall were so focused on each other that Honor remembers that his sister, who had traveled from Boston for the meeting, was a bit upset.
"We sit at the bar, on stools facing each other, and ignore everyone else," he says.
"We talked all night and the next day."
On Friday afternoon Steggall had to fly back to London.
Honor accompanied him to the subway station and they said goodbye on the platform.
As the train doors closed, Honor remembers feeling a sense of certainty.
"It was really intuitive and instinctive," he says now.
Back at his apartment, Honor confided to his sister:
"That is the man I am going to marry."
Fall in love on the phone
They said their connection was almost instantaneous.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
When he traveled to New York, Steggall had been dating someone in London.
The first thing it did when landing in the UK was break out.
"I didn't really know what was going to happen," he says, "but I felt it was the right thing to do."
The next day Honor called him from New York.
And so began a month of daily remote telephone conversations, and the occasional letter sent across the Atlantic.
"We had a kind of old-fashioned courtship over the phone," Honor says.
At the time, she was working as a substitute teacher, calling Steggall from the school break room.
Steggall worked as a Christmas tree and flower vendor in Chelsea, London, occasionally DJing at night.
He would talk to Honor when he returned from a long day's work or before going out to a club.
It was the middle of December when Steggall proposed.
"Listen," Steggall said.
"Why don't you come to London for Christmas?"
"I don't know. It's a lot. It's Christmas. I didn't spend Thanksgiving with my family. I should spend Christmas with them," Honor remembers thinking.
He was also hesitant to put his heart on the line.
She had had that difficult breakup earlier in the year and had just felt satisfied again.
But he was thinking that he should seize this moment.
"I don't want to regret not doing this," he remembers thinking.
"If this is the opportunity, I don't want to miss it."
One cold December day, he went to a travel agency and left with a plane ticket to London in hand.
"It was a commitment, something tangible," he says.
"I think I was willing to take a chance, hoping it would turn out well, but also knowing that if I didn't, it wasn't going to be the end of my world."
Honor says that feeling that she would be fine no matter what happened came from the sense of herself she had worked hard to cultivate after a hard year.
She trusted the connection to Steggall, but also herself.
His friends and family were "cautiously optimistic," he says.
They supported his decision and hoped his faith in Steggall was well founded.
A Christmas reunion
Honor flew from New York to London on Christmas Day.
Stegall was waiting for her at Heathrow Airport arrivals.
It was 9pm and she was carrying a bouquet of her Chelsea flowers.
Steggall had told friends and family that he had met someone while on vacation in New York.
But he hadn't had much time to share many details about this burgeoning connection.
"Everything happened so fast between November and December ... and with the work of selling flowers and Christmas trees, all the end of November and the whole month of December is full, they are like 20-hour days".
In the UK, December 26 is known as “Boxing Day” and is also a national holiday.
In the morning of
“Boxing Day,” Steggall and Honor traveled together to their parents' home.
"It's a tradition in our family to have a kind of champagne and smoked salmon brunch, so the whole family was sitting around the table having a glass of champagne and Dina and I walked in," recalls Steggall.
He introduced her to his family and then briefly excused himself.
When he returned, Honor was "the center of attention", drinking and chatting with his family.
"I left her in the room with my parents, my uncles and my sister, and they got along really well," says Steggall.
"They were all incredibly nice," Honor says.
"My parents were very happy that I had met someone, and it was clear that it was love from the beginning ... and I think they will tell you that they were able to completely see a change in me, and see how happy I was," says Steggall.
That same day, Steggall surprised Honor with a plane ticket.
The two were going to fly to the island of Mallorca in
Spain with some friends from Steggall to spend New Year's Eve.
It was a great trip, Honor says, although she had to endure a bit of prying from her new boyfriend's friends.
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When the parties ended, he had to return to the United States.
But Steggall booked a spontaneous weekend in New York at the end of January 1998, while Honor flew to London for Valentine's Day.
For that vacation, the couple rented a sports car and stayed in a stylish Richmond hotel, west of London.
"This was all out of our comfort zone at the time, but we tried to recreate this romantic weekend," says Steggall.
He bought a suit and a pair of fancy shoes for the first time, and remembers that he nearly fell down the hotel stairs because the shoes weren't on properly.
Moving to New York
In the spring of 1998, Steggall quit his job in the flower market and traveled to New York for three months, intending to spend the summer with Honor.
It wasn't supposed to be permanent, but looking back, he finds that his friends and family knew better.
"The goodbyes that we had, and some of the parties that were organized, had a more definitive air than that of a three-month thing: it was really a goodbye to a new life."
Still, Steggall arrived with just a green bag of clothes.
He settled in the Honor department, the same one where he had appeared, uninvited, on Thanksgiving Day before.
They spent the hot summer days together, exploring the city, strolling through Central Park and the East Village, cementing their certainty that they wanted to be together for the long haul.
Although they felt that marriage could be in their future, the couple say they did not want to get married at the time, even though it would have been a way to ensure that Steggall could stay in the United States.
"I think we were both very clear that: 'Yes, we want you to say it, and we will find a way to do it, and yes, maybe later, there will be marriage.' But those two things were very separate, I think for both of them." says Honor.
So Steggall started looking for visa jobs and ended up working at the United Nations.
"When you tell the story to people, they can't believe it's true: they think you're a spy working for the UN or something like that," Steggall jokes.
It was an incredible opportunity in terms of his career.
Steggall and Honor began to settle together in New York.
A marriage proposal on New Years Eve
Millennium Proposal: The couple got engaged at a New Year's Eve party on December 31, 1999. This photo was taken just after Steggall proposed to her as the clock struck midnight.
Honor said yes.
Courtesy of Dina Honor
The couple's history had started on Thanksgiving and continued on Christmas.
And on New Years Eve 1999, the two began a new chapter together when Steggall proposed to her at the turn of the new millennium.
The couple recall seeing the explosion of fireworks over Sydney Harbor that morning on CNN.
Honor was in awe of the spectacle, but Steggall had fallen silent with nerves.
"I was sitting there, very nervous and in a bad way. And Dina said to me: 'What's wrong with you, is it New Year's Eve and it's the new millennium?'" Says Steggall, laughing.
That night, they headed to a friend's party in a skyscraper overlooking the city.
By this time, Steggall's nerves were even worse.
"It was a bit difficult for me to stay calm, I had started to tell people about it," he says.
"I shared it with a couple of people, who were very excited."
More friends found out when Steggall couldn't open a bottle of champagne because his hands were shaking so much.
He handed it to someone else and pushed his way through the crowd to find Honor.
When the clock struck midnight, he asked her to marry him.
"I think I kicked him in the shin out of excitement," she says.
The couple married in April 2001 in New York, in a place called the Manhattan Penthouse on Fifth Avenue.
His British friends and family stayed in the glamorous hotels that surround Union Square.
"We wanted to offer our friends and family who came, especially from London, but also where I grew up, near Boston, a real New York experience, so we chose a place on the top floor, with windows on all sides," he says Honor.
Guests admired the views of the Empire State Building as they toasted the couple's future.
Afterward, Honor and Steggall hired limousines to keep the guests on their way.
Some went to the bars in Union Square or enjoyed drinks at their hotels.
"There are all kinds of stories about where people ended up," says Steggall.
"My father was last seen in a limousine, I'm not sure this is real, but it has become the real thing, going out the sunroof, pointing towards the city, as the limo went up Broadway. I think it probably is. an urban myth, but it has become part of our family legend. "
A new chapter in Europe
After an "incredible" honeymoon in Australia, Steggall and Honor continued to enjoy life in New York, and later had two children.
And in 2008, his life took a new turn when the family moved to Nicosia, Cyprus, for Steggall's work at the UN.
When the opportunity to relocate arose, the couple began to feel that their New York apartment had become too small for them.
Steggall, who has always been a bit of a traveler, was looking forward to a new adventure.
However, the decision to move to Cyprus was not an easy one.
Her youngest son was only six months old at the time.
Plus, Honor says she's the more risk-averse of the two, and wasn't sure at first.
But, after a long conversation, the couple decided to do it.
"We decided that the pros outweighed the cons," Honor says.
In Nicosia, the couple had to deal with a little culture shock at first, but eventually they made good friends, embracing the Mediterranean way of life, satisfied that their children were growing up amidst beautiful landscapes and sunshine.
"Creo que cambió mucho nuestra mentalidad sobre el tipo de vida que podíamos tener", dice Steggall.
Tanto es así que, en lugar de volver a Nueva York como siempre habían asumido, la familia se trasladó más tarde a Copenhague.
En 2021, Steggall y Honour siguen viviendo en Dinamarca. Sus hijos tienen 17 y 13 años, y puede que sean neoyorquinos de nacimiento, pero se han criado en toda Europa y les encanta viajar.
Steggall sigue trabajando para la ONU, mientras que Honour es autora y editora. Ha publicado el libro "there's Some Place Like Home: Lessons From a Decade Abroad" en 2018.
Tradiciones de Acción de Gracias
Hace más de 10 años que Steggall y Honour vivieron por última vez en EE.UU., pero el Día de Acción de Gracias sigue siendo una fecha importante para la pareja; al fin y al cabo, la fiesta los unió.
"Los niños conocen la historia, se ha convertido en parte de nuestra tradición familiar", dice Honour.
"Siempre es una fecha en el calendario en la que empezamos a reflexionar sobre nuestras vidas y lo que ha pasado y todo, toda la historia de principio a fin", dice Steggall.
Steggall añade que durante sus primeros años de vida en Estados Unidos, Acción de Gracias se convirtió rápidamente en su festividad estadounidense favorita.
"Era mágica porque ibas y tenías esa comida fantástica, pasabas tiempo con la familia y al día siguiente te sentabas en rompa cómoda a ver la televisión, todos juntos relajándose", recuerda.
When Steggall and Honor first moved to Cyprus, they tried to recreate American Thanksgiving traditions.
But as they have adapted to life in Europe, they have started to celebrate the holiday differently.
This year in Copenhagen, they went out to dinner as a family and reflected on what they are grateful for.
And one thing Steggall and Honor will always be grateful for is their chance meeting, their connection, and their years of conversations.
"We still spend hours and hours and hours talking," Honor says.
"That Dina offering me that pumpkin pie was the beginning of that conversation, which has been going on for 24 years," says Steggall.