"We all know the Classic Thanksgiving, but what about other cultures? What do OSA students of different ethnic backgrounds do for their Thanksgiving?" - Makenna Arase
In 1621, colonists and natives put their differences aside and gathered together for a feast that has now become an American icon. It solidified itself in 1861, when Abraham Lincoln declared it as an official holiday to be celebrated in late November. In the 1930s, however, the current president at the time, President Franklin Roosevelt, tried to move the holiday a few days earlier, but after nation-wide protest, changed his mind and placed it on the fourth Thursday of every November. It has stayed there since, and its customs have mostly remained the same: celebrating the fall harvest with an abundance of food and giving thanks with your family. Of course, the football and shopping frenzies have ingrained themselves into the holiday as well.
Internationally, however, Thanksgiving has been around for much longer than the most familiar version.
In Germany, a holiday called “Erntedankfest” is a harvest festival for giving thanks for a good year and good luck. It is placed on the first Sunday of October, and during the festivities, people typically wear a Erntekrone, a harvest crown of grain, flowers, and fruit. In place of turkey, fattened up chickens, hens, castrated roosters, and geese are the center pieces of their feast.
In Japan, “Kinrō Kansha no Hi” is a national holiday celebrated on November 23rd, and celebrates the rights of workers in post-World War II. Even though this holiday was inspired by the ancient harvest rituals called Niinamesai, which have been around for thousands of years, this holiday was only officially created in 1948. Customs include children often making crafts and gifts for police officers.
In China, on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, people celebrate a holiday called the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is fullest and brightest--typically in late September or early October. It is celebrated with gratitude for the changing of seasons and to signify the fall harvest. This holiday is over 2,500 years old, and instead of turkey, a dish called “moon cakes” are eaten instead. Mooncakes are made with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds, and duck eggs.
There are plenty other examples of countries who celebrate their own version of Thanksgiving, like Liberia, Canada, The Netherlands, and Norfolk Island.
So how about OSA? Just like the world, OSA is a very diverse place. There are lots of different religions and ethnicities that meet in OSA’s crowded hallways, and it’s not uncommon for there to be more than five ethnicities in a classroom--if not more.
OSA’s demographic from the 2017-18 school year breaks down to 41% Caucasian; 29% Multi-Ethnic, 17% African American, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic/Latino, 1% American Indian, 1% Pacific Islander. (The 2018-2019 information won’t be out until later this year.). Considering the different celebrations from around the world that fall under the word “Thanksgiving”, and the many ethnicities residing in the school, what do OSA’s student’s Thanksgivings look like? Do religion and ethnic background have any influence? All of the people interviewed said that their religion did not have any influence on the holiday, but for some of them, their ethnicity did.
Monet Montgomery, a Filipino and African-American 9th grader said that Filipino cuisine was an important part of the holiday. “We don’t use traditional Thanksgiving food. It’s more like lumpia, adobo, and for sweets and stuff, I’d say turon.”
Helen Rivas, a Salvadorian and Spaniard 8th grader also said that her food fell more in line with her culture rather than country. When asked what her favorite Thanksgiving food was, she responded, “It’s usually Hispanic food, it might be Salvadorian food. Pupusas, that’s what it is. I like it because it goes way back to my mom teaching me, my grandma teaching her, it’s just like a tradition.”
When asked what they usually do for Thanksgiving, everyone had a similar answer: To go to a family or friend’s house.
Charlotte Porter, a white 8th grader, said that she usually goes to Michigan with her parents to visit her cousins, or to her friend’s house. She spends the holiday eating turkey, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. She doesn’t care for the holiday all that much, so it’s a pretty laid-back vacation for her.
Nai Trawick, an African-American 8th grader has a more action-packed holiday. She goes to visit her aunt’s house in Elk Grove, a place in Sacramento. Her aunt cooks the food, including collard greens, cornbread, turkey, and so on. Her mother brings a honey-baked ham, and after all the cooking, Trawick’s entire family joins under one roof and stays up all night.
Imix Martinez, a Salvadorian and Guatemalan 8th grader, spends her Thanksgiving at home and sleeps all day. She used to do something different, though. She used to spend her Thanksgivings at her grandmother’s house in Sacramento, where she and her brother helped cook the food with her grandmother while the rest of her family relaxed in the living room. They would set the table, then eat. Martinez laughs whenever she recounts what they did. “We used to get jello and put it in the wine glasses and put it in the fridge, and kept doing that until we had a whole cup of jello. Then you could take a spoon and eat it like a cup. It was really fun.”
American style food was the answer for many of the girls when asked what their favorite Thanksgiving food was.
“Oh mac and cheese. High-key. So a lot of times we get mac and cheese from Homeroom. It is the greatest mac and cheese on earth, and if you haven’t had it, what are you doing with your life? It is a restaurant and it only makes mac and cheese. I guess I like it because it’s the perfect amount of cheese, and the perfect amount of macaroni. Everything is just perfectly balanced, it’s just like a big block of mac and cheese but when you dig your fork into it, and you taste it, it’s just so good,” Porter gushed in response to the question.
“My favorite? Oh that’s hard. My favorite Thanksgiving food? I think it would probably be collard greens,” Trawick said. “Man, collard greens are good. Man I love collard greens. She [mother or aunt] puts like ham hocks in it and keeps the bones in it, it’s just amazing.”
“The traditional turkey, that weird cranberry thing, mashed potatoes, stuffing. It’s all my favorite. Except the vegetables. I’m a child, okay?” said Martinez.
Finally, I asked if they ever wished they did anything differently for Thanksgiving.
“I never wished anything differently,”said Martinez. “That house was beautiful, honestly. Now, like I said, we don’t really do anything anymore because my grandpa passed away. But yeah, what we do now, I wish we could go back and do what we used to do. But you know, times change.”
“Yes. I wanna go ice skating,” said Montgomery. “I’ve never been to the snow, so I wanna see that. I’d want to go to Vegas, Minnesota, somewhere. Somewhere where it’s cold.”
“Not really. I cherish the moment, and it’s kind of a tradition. It’s the same thing every year. Wouldn’t expect anything different,” said Rivas.
As for cultural traditions and clothing, the answer was all nos. None of the people interviewed participated in any cultural traditions and clothing. Much of their favorite dishes were introduced to them by family or friends, and varied from the past two years to when they could walk. The special places they go for the holiday are always a friend’s or family member’s house, and there is always an abundance of laughter and food to go around. It seems like Thanksgiving is living up to its namesake, and all have been satisfied with the festivities at one point in their life.