No thanks to Thanksgiving

Natalie Sweet, Staff Writer

On Thanksgiving, Gabrielle Fischberg (10) will sit down at a large table surrounded by friends, but there will be no turkey in sight. Instead, there will be lechon, a traditional Filipino roasted pig, lumpia, fried spring rolls, and pancit, a cooked noodle dish, on her plate.

She is one of many at the school who celebrate Thanksgiving in a way that is seen as unconventional to many Americans.

Fischberg’s family has been celebrating Thanksgiving with non-American foods as long as she can remember, she said. However, this isn’t the only thing that makes the evening special.

“Most of the friends my mother invites to our ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner are immigrants who recently moved to America or friends who don’t have family in the States,” she said.

This is because Fischberg’s mother didn’t have family when she emigrated from the Philippines to America, Fischberg said. To her family, it is always important that others can feel welcomed on a day often associated with togetherness and love, she said.

Ahaana Shrivastava (10), whose family emigrated from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to America several years ago, has spent the past three years at the Fischbergs’ house for Thanksgiving dinner and is looking forward to a fourth, she said.

Similarly to Fischberg, chemistry teacher Dr. Rachel Mohammed also hosts multicultural Thanksgiving dinners for international friends, they said.

“On a couple of occasions, I have hosted Thanksgiving where traditional Albanian and Trinidadian food was served,” Mohammed said. “I hosted these dinners with my partner as a kind gesture to make sure our international friends, who were Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and Albanian, had a warm place to gather around good food with company during the holidays,” they said.

Euwan Kim (11) shares a similar immigrant experience with her family.

“Since my parents emigrated to America, they’re not extremely in touch with the customs and holidays celebrated here,” she said.

Though Kim’s family eats a large dinner on Thanksgiving, they don’t recognize the historical significance of Thanksgiving, she said.

However, Kim has her own special Thanksgiving tradition of cooking the main dish herself. “I roast a chicken by myself, since my family usually can’t finish a turkey,” Kim said. “I have a special Thanksgiving marination sauce, made with dill, rosemary, lemon, olive oil, soy sauce, lemon, and ginger,” she said.

Despite not celebrating American Thanksgiving, Kim’s family does celebrate Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok, which started on the 23rd of September this year. Chuseok is a huge holiday for Koreans, since it’s one of the few traditional holidays to survive Korea’s history of occupation, oppression, and culture-washing, Kim said.

“People usually go to their hometowns and celebrate with family on Chuseok, but since my family lives across the world, we just make phone calls to everyone,” Kim said.

One of the most important items on the table during Chuseok are rice cakes. Kim’s mom goes to a dduk store, or a rice cake store, to buy rice cakes filled with red beans, honey, barley, or soy bean powder, Kim said. Rice cakes are really important to Chuseok since most of Korea’s harvests are rice, she said.

For Kim, Chuseok is a really personal opportunity to connect with a family and a culture that she’s not surrounded by here in the US, she said.

Janvi Kukreja (12) also doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in a typical sense, she said.

“Sitting down at a table with turkey and stuffing has never really been something that my family does,” she said.

For the past five years, Kukreja has traveled to a new country with five other families over the Thanksgiving break. Countries Kukreja has traveled to over Thanksgiving break include Iceland, Copenhagen, Sweden and Mexico. This year, she’ll be in the Dominican Republic, she said.

On these Thanksgiving trips, Kukreja’s family makes sure to learn more about the culture of the country that they are in, she said. “We really try to immerse ourselves in a different environment that we’re not used to,” Kukreja said.

To Kukreja, location doesn’t matter when it comes to spending time with loved ones on Thanksgiving. “Especially since my brother is in college, Thanksgiving is a good time to make sure my family is all together, and that’s what really matters,” she said.