Usually around the end of the month of November, an American holiday is celebrated: Thanksgiving.

Last year, I was invited to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at my friend’s place. I remember not being exposed to the Thanksgiving culture and tradition before, thus not knowing what to expect. The night of Thanksgiving, several relatives poured into the house. Each of them was holding a flavorful dish. It looked promising and I was anticipating devouring some tasty home-made meals. Before supper, the relatives were enjoying themselves talking and catching up with what’s happening in each others’ lives, while in the children’s corner, the kids were being well entertained by the presence of their same-aged cousins. We all knew it was almost time for dinner when the poultry came out of the oven. This huge roasted turkey was stuffed with different seasonings, herbs and toppings. With the smell invading the house, everybody gathered to the dinner table without being told to do so. Indeed, I learned at that time of the night that having turkey for Thanksgiving was part of the American tradition. However, I have been told that in some cases, some families cook smoked ham instead of turkey for Thanksgiving and in other cases; they cook both turkey and smoke ham.

When everybody was seated, my friend’s family started a ritual where everybody had to say what they were thankful for. Some relatives got emotional while others were acting as a support system. When it got to my turn, I couldn’t express myself very well because it was my first time doing it. However, I was grateful for having my friend’s family treating me like one of them; I was thankful to simply have such an extraordinary friend in my entourage. Needless to say, everyone attacked their plates with their silverware, after the Thanksgiving ritual, announcing the beginning of the feast!

From then on, I knew thanksgiving was not only about the good food people always brag about not about the family gathering; it’s about sharing love with the ones you love whether you are blood related or not.

Mark Chung Kwan Fan is a first-year international graduate student from the island of Mauritius. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Student Affairs and Administration at MSU’s College of Education. His interests vary from Latin American culture to student affairs in the context of international education. Mark also serves as Orientation Intern at the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).