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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Students reflect on non-traditional Thanksgivings

On Thursday, some students will sit down to a turkey dinner, some to a ham, and some to none of the above.

While Thanksgiving has received the reputation of being America’s “Turkey Day,” the student sitting next to you in organic chemistry may be looking forward to something other than the traditional Thanksgiving Day bird.

Midson Hay, who graduated in 2011 with degrees in Japanese and economics and identifies as Southeast Asian, said there was no sort of Thanksgiving tradition in his house until he was a teenager.

“Growing up I didn’t really celebrate Thanksgiving with my family until my older sister and I reached high school. We were pretty much independent at this point and we agreed that we wanted a real Thanksgiving,” Hay said.

When they were old enough, Hay and his sister tried to bring the tradition of Thanksgiving to his family.

“We went out to get groceries to cook a Thanksgiving feast, which my parents weren’t really fond of. They thought it was too ‘American’ and they would have rather had Chinese food,” Hay said.

Even if his attempt to create a traditional Thanksgiving may have failed, Hay said he definitely still gained something from the experience.

“It was a day with ridiculous amounts of food and not enough people to eat it. Friends and family came to stuff their faces and watch the football game, and it was probably the first time in a long time I felt any kind of real family bonding,” Hay said.

Hay does still have a love for Thanksgiving, however, for the same reason as many other students.

“Food!” Hay said. “It’s a socially acceptable ‘fat’ day. I love it.”

There are some families, however, that have adopted a traditional American Thanksgiving into their lives and changed it to adhere more to their own cultures.

For Mahshid Aimaq, senior psychology major with an emphasis in biology, the Thanksgiving lunch includes traditional American as well as traditional Afghani foods.

“We make all the traditional things like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and biscuits. We also make Afghani food like rice, spinach and kabob. For dessert we will make apple pie and firnee, which is an Afghani desert, kind of like pudding,” Aimaq said.

For Aimaq, it wouldn’t matter what the traditions were, as long as she would be with family.

“My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that I get to spend time with my family,” Aimaq said.

Phaxi Yang, senior psychology major, also experiences fusions of American culture and her own culture, Hmong, on Thanksgiving.

“We cook a big turkey and make all kinds of other dishes, from mashed potatoes to eggrolls. For some reason, we always get a pumpkin pie but no one ever eats it. When the turkey is cooked, my brother-in-law will cut half of it and grind the meat up and make a Laotian dish called laab,” Yang said.

Yang’s family also has another important tradition after the Thanksgiving lunch.

“The ‘lunch’ usually last until almost 4 p.m. and afterward, we usually set up the Christmas tree and pick our Secret Santa. When everything is settled, we all usually sit around our TV and watch a “Friends” episode, our favorite show,” Yang said.

According to Yang, Thanksgiving a few years ago was especially memorable because the whole family sat down to tell stories.

“My dad told the story of how he carried my oldest brother and sister through the jungles of Laos and crossed the Mekong River to get to Thailand during the Vietnam War. He also told a story about my past grandmother and he was laughing and crying,” Yang said.

For Yang, it isn’t the food or the Christmas tree that makes Thanksgiving Day so special — it’s being surrounded by her big family.

“My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the family gathering. We usually have about five families total over at my parents, including my siblings’ families,” Yang said.

MICHELLE STAUFFER can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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