Students and staff make Thanksgiving their own

Grace Snarr, Copy Editor

It would seem that everyone is familiar with Thanksgiving. Everyone’s been making construction paper projects about Pilgrims and Native Americans since kindergarten; and turkey and pumpkin pies grace nearly every table in America come the fourth Thursday of November. However, if the bubble of first world isolation is popped, it can seem startling to find that the holiday which we hold so dear is entirely nonexistent in every other country of the world.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, a fact which seems obvious but is often overlooked. When others immigrate to the United States, they have the choice to decide whether or not to adopt this holiday for themselves. They may take advantage of the time as an opportunity to bond with family or create their own spin-offs with a mix of American and their own cultural foods and traditions.

Some students have family members to help them as they become accustomed to the culture of the United States. Junior Mosammat Ritu came from Bangladesh three years ago with her mom and older sister, and relied on other family members in America to learn about the new holiday.

“My aunts celebrate Thanksgiving, so whenever they make [food for Thanksgiving], they send it to us so we can eat [it],” Ritu said. “That includes turkey, and Bengali foods like biryani, chicken curry and beef curry.”

Family members and relatives who are familiar with the holiday are beneficial for those new to the country, as they can help their loved ones create their own traditions. Spanish teacher Zoraida Vasquez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1994, and had relatives to help her become accustomed to the holiday.

“I have family here, so they celebrate [Thanksgiving], but they do it totally different. They have a family dinner; but it’s like a party, and they dance,” Vasquez said. “It’s not like a sit-together; it’s more like a celebration and they have different foods. It doesn’t have to include turkey either. The first year that I was here they made a lasagna, and a bunch of Spanish foods.”

While some families go all out for Thanksgiving, others prefer to keep it simple and spend the break reconnecting. Junior Hanel Da Silveira has lived in the United States for four years after moving from Togo, West Africa. She enjoys the Thanksgiving holiday because of the time that she can spend with her family.

“We are trying to [celebrate Thanksgiving],” Da Silveira said. “We spend time together as a family, [and we have] turkey.”

Just like any other holiday, time off from school is valued and appreciated for the opportunity to gather together and relax. Junior Huong Nguyen from Vietnam also enjoys the advantage of the extra time off.

“I just stay home with my family and we play games,” Nguyen said. “It is a good holiday because we can stay home [together].”

Another option for those coming from another cultural background is to create a unique Thanksgiving feast with a combination of classic American dishes along with recipes from their own native country. With parents who are direct immigrants from Pakistan, junior Wajiha Malik’s family embraces the holidays and traditions of their new country, while finding ways to still incorporate the details of their own heritage.

“We go places or we invite friends over to our place, and then we have turkey and mashed potatoes,” Malik said. “For me, [my favorite dish is] biryani, [which is] a rice; it’s really spicy and it tastes really good, even though it is not [a traditional] Thanksgiving food.”

Vasquez and her family also enjoy a more heritage-based Thanksgiving meal, filled with delicious Dominican delicacies.

“We eat pernil [which] is like the side of a pig; they roast it and it’s super good,” Vasquez said. “[It] is almost like an American [Thanksgiving], but the main [dish] is [pernil], and they have yellow rice and bread.”

With Chantilly’s close proximity to the nation’s capital, the area is full of diverse people who adopt American traditions while observing those of their own heritage.

“It’s great to have diversity,” Ritu said. “If you have the diversity, then you will have more knowledge about people, festivals and culture.”