Thanksgiving: A U.S. Tradition of Food, Family and Football

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we have two guest blogs; one from our International Student Advisor and Orientation Coordinator, Amber Cordell and the other (later this week) from our Orientation Intern and International Graduate Student, Mark Chung Kwan Fan.

If you want to take part in the American tradition of Thanksgiving, you have a couple of great opportunities this week.

On Wednesday evening (November 23rd), the International Student Association (ISA), the Council of Graduate Students (COGS) and the Graduate Employees Union (GEU) will join together for the 4th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Join them from 5-8 p.m. in the South Lounge of Spartan Village Community Center!

If you’re still hungry (or can’t make it on Wednesday), the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) is hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for all MSU and LCC students who can’t go home for Thanksgiving. The event, known as “Homies Dinner” is from 4-6 p.m.  on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24th).

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Thanksgiving for me is about family and my mom’s cooking!  My mom, a Southern lady, is truly the greatest cook in the world.  She cooks a whole turkey for hours, and it is always perfect and beautiful.  Her specialty is cornbread dressing with gravy, which is kind of a baked casserole with cornbread, milk, onions and turkey.  She doesn’t stuff the turkey like some families do.  Her dressing is so special that it must be eaten on its own.  She also makes a Jell-O salad, fruit salad and fresh coconut sour cream cake with four layers.  She cooks for days and days.  Thanksgiving is the most delicious day of the year.  Before we eat, my family holds hands, names things for which we are grateful and says a prayer of thanks for our many blessings.

On Thanksgiving Day, my family watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV.  Then we eat mom’s amazing food for lunch.  We are so stuffed that we have to take a nap after helping clean the dishes.  Some people watch the football bowl games.  Some of the men go deer hunting.  I like to look at the newspaper ads for Black Friday sales and laugh and talk with my sister and her kids.  We also decorate my mom’s house for Christmas just after Thanksgiving.

Although it seems impossible that we could ever be hungry again, we make turkey sandwiches with the leftovers for a snack.  Then we eat more leftovers for dinner.  We try to go to bed early so we can catch the sales early the next morning.

When I lived in Japan for three years, Thanksgiving was the most painful holiday to share away from my family.  Most of my friends were from Japan, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  I had to work every day, and no one even knew to say Happy Thanksgiving to me.  I ate dinner at a Japanese Italian restaurant rather than enjoying my mom’s delicious homemade food.  I didn’t get to line up at crazy hours in the U.S. to buy clothes and electronics on sale the day after Thanksgiving.  Skype and Facebook weren’t available when I lived in Japan.  I felt so far away from my family and the joy of being together.

I think I can relate to MSU’s international students who feel homesick when they are studying in the U.S. during special holidays.  It is wonderful to see student organizations host events around their holidays so they do not have to miss these celebrations or be alone.  I enjoy attending international events to learn about other cultures and to share my enthusiasm for the special occasion.  I feel great joy when I say to my international friends “Happy Diwali,” “Eid Mubarak,” and so on.  We should all celebrate our traditions together with food, dancing, prayer, lights and whatever your tradition calls us to share.  Being away from your family gives you a chance to reflect on your own culture, religion, traditions and values.  Once you’ve been alone on a special holiday, you are so much more grateful when you have the chance to celebrate with your loved ones again.

Thanksgiving is more than food, family and football.  I hope that you will take advantage of any invitations to share Thanksgiving in a U.S. home or with U.S. friends.  As I say my Thanksgiving prayer this year, my international students will definitely be mentioned as one of the greatest blessings for which I am grateful.

Amber Cordell is an International Student Advisor at the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) and is the International Student Orientation Coordinator for OISS.

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