SAU Buzz

International Thanksgiving perspective

by Ashlynn Maczko
Posted on Dec 06, 2018

With the holiday season in full swing and Thanksgiving and Christmas on the way, you may be wondering if there’s any way to add some culture to your Thanksgiving celebration. In particular, several International students from St. Ambrose University will uniquely celebrate Thanksgiving.

Wangi George Wiliam, an international student from Uganda, Africa, is completing his third semester at St. Ambrose as a finance major.

Wiliam experienced Thanksgiving one time last year.

“I learned It is a time of coming together with friends, and people you love to give thanks to them, and god,” Wiliam said.

Last year, Wiliam attended a church service with his host family.

“We prepare a wonderful meal, we gather with loved ones, you eat, and sleep like a baby,” the day is reserved for that, says William. The pleasant experience, reminded him of, Christmas day back in Uganda.

According to Wiliam Christmas and Boxing day in Uganda are very similar to Thanksgiving, but with different foods. He looks forward to other American holiday traditions, but is confused about Black Friday, he says, “It is crazy to see so many people going to the stores, they do not even fit inside.”

St. Ambrose is hosting several first-time visitors like Diana Kaka, a student from Kenya, East Africa. She is an international law student that arrived in August, and it will be her first time celebrating Thanksgiving.

“When I got here the first thing we celebrated was Halloween. I do not understand what it is about, children and pumpkins everywhere, no one explained it to me. We still had fun on Halloween with our friends,” Says Kaka.

While growing up in Kenya, She learned about other western holidays like Ash Wednesday, from a Catholic church she attends. The other western holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter, remain somewhat of a mystery to Kaka.

Kaka looks forward to sharing her experience and trying new, exciting foods with her friend Pooja Das, an interlink student from Kolkata, India, who is also having her first Thanksgiving with other Interlink students at St. Ambrose.

“I went to a Catholic boarding school, where I received my general education, and there I learned about other western traditions,” Das said.  “I learned about Thanksgiving, from a fellow exchange student, who returned from Arizona.”

Das, like the other interlink students, agreed, they liked the idea of a long break.

“When heard about it, though how nice, it must be to get so much time off to spend with family, and friends, and the giant feast with turkey,” and “Oh my god! I heard how crazy Black Friday is.”

Without much experience, Das says she is determined to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“I invited interlink students, who cannot return home for the break, to come together, and celebrate on campus,” Das said.

According to Das, they plan on getting a turkey from the store and finding a recipe online.

“We don’t know how it will turn out, but it sounds like fun. We don’t have Thanksgiving in India, but our holiday season begins on the 4th of November, called Diwali (Festival of Lights) symbolizing the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness,” said Das.

She also explains that Diwali last around five days, and people send gifts, sweets, and mixed nuts to friends and family. Das plans on sharing some Indian culture by making food to share with the interlink students.

Another student from Asia, looking forward to the holidays season is, Souksavanh Vongthongchit. Sou arrived in August, and it will be his first time celebrating a major western holiday.

“We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Laos, we do not have that festival, but a lot of people know about it in Laos,” Sou explains. “Because we don’t have many official holidays or time off like the western countries, sometimes we celebrate other Asian holidays privately, if you have relatives or friends from other countries. Usually, the only time we celebrate like Thanksgiving is for festivals and special occasions, like weddings or family reunions.”

Even without a complete understanding of Thanksgiving, Sou plans on gathering with Das and the other interlink students, for their very first American Thanksgiving celebration.

“I am going to prepare a traditional Laos dish, mixed vegetables with beef in spicy sauce, and sticky rice. Plus It will be fascinating to try turkey for the first time,” says Sou. “I want to go out and try shopping on Black Friday with the others, the idea sounds interesting to us, because we hear about Black Friday, in the news back home.”

Despite the groups varying levels of experience with western holidays,  Wiliam describes what seems to be the universal meaning behind Thanksgiving.

“Back home, we celebrate Christmas, but some of the people don’t know the story behind the birth of Jesus Christ, and believe a myth instead,” Wiliam explains. “Thanksgiving day is more than a myth about food. It is a beautiful day, you come together and appreciate the fact, we are all related as friends and family, to love, to live a life like you never lived before for that one day.”