How different cultures celebrate Thanksgiving

Students and mentors gathered in a small, McLean Hall kitchen on Thursday, Nov. 17. Vegetables sizzled in a pan, and Korean sauces filled the room with a tangy aroma.

Laughter and stories were shared among the group of people, many of whom claimed different cultural identities.

As anticipation for the Korean kimchi pancakes mounted, ingredients were gathered to prepare Dutch pancakes. Everything came together to make a multicultural Thanksgiving meal.

The gathering was sponsored by Study Abroad and Global Learning. Students prepared dishes from all over the world to celebrate the traditionally American holiday in a multicultural way, said Louisville junior Maggie Sullivan, an SAGL exchange student mentor.

“For Thanksgiving, we thought we’d get together and have a meal, especially since it’s getting towards the end of the semester — things get stressful,” Sullivan said. “Instead of eating traditional turkey and mashed potatoes, we thought we would have [the exchange students] share some of their favorite foods with us.”

We asked a few of these students to open up about their culture’s food and holiday traditions.

Yi-Chi Yao – senior from Taiwan

In Taiwan, American Thanksgiving is not celebrated, but the Chinese New Year is. Yao said this holiday brings people together and features many of the same aspects as Thanksgiving in the United States.

“It’s around January, and I think what we do is what you guys do during Thanksgiving or Christmas. Family is gathered together, and then we have a big meal, and we have a special tradition. We have this thing called the red envelope and the elders will put money in it and give it to children.”

“I’m surprised because everyone [here] is like, ‘Oh! Thanksgiving, I’m going back to spend time with my family, and school shuts down the dorms, and everyone is kind of forced to leave. This makes me think, ‘Hmm, I should see my family more.’”

Ayano Kimura – junior from Japan

Thanksgiving is also not celebrated in Japan, but Christmas is.

“For Christmas, [the Japanese] do the Santa Claus stuff, but not as much as here because here, they put so many Christmas gifts near the tree, but in Japan, Santa Claus puts just one or two next to your bed and when you wake up, ‘Ah! Santa came!’

For teenagers or our generation, couples go eat out at a fancy restaurant and then prepare presents and then give [them to] each other. ”

“I like the holiday here because here you all think family is really important. In my country, people forget about [the] importance of family. People would rather hang out with friends or [as a] couple not family. So I really like it here. And Thanksgiving food is good.”

Dayeon Choi – senior from South Korea

Many Koreans celebrate Chuseok, a holiday that is similar to Thanksgiving. Like American Thanksgiving, Chuseok is celebrated by bringing together family and food.

“We call it Chuseok. It’s also like a family gathering. The whole family gets together, and then we eat Korean food. And then the most popular food is songpyeon. Chuseok is one day, but before and after we also have holidays because we have to go to grandmother’s house, and it takes a long time if they live farther, so we usually have like three days.”

“Before I came here I already knew that [Americans] have Thanksgiving Day, and then they have turkey, the most popular thing. Family gathering is also good because some people nowadays, some Korean people don’t really celebrate a lot. They do not when I compare to past times. Though my family still meets together, but some of my friends don’t meet [with] their families. [There’s] more family events here.”

Shifa Maryam – sophomore from Sargodha, Pakistan

Maryam said she didn’t know about Thanksgiving until she came to the United States, but she’s learned that it’s similar to Eid, an Islamic holiday observed in Pakistan. During Eid, families come together and celebrate with a spectacle of lavish clothes and food.

“I am from a small town in Pakistan. It’s called Sargodha. We have our month when we fast for the whole month and then we celebrate Eid. It’s like Christmas.”

“We dress up in fancy clothes, and we celebrate for three days, and it’s pretty much like Thanksgiving. We get together, the family members and all the friends. And then we cook together, we celebrate. So it’s pretty much like Thanksgiving, but we call it Eid.”

“I’m definitely going to celebrate Thanksgiving, too. I like celebrating and sharing happiness with all kinds of people, so it doesn’t really matter to me what kind of event it is. It’s all about celebration with your friends, and that’s it.”