While serving missions or moving to America, international students said they were introduced to Thanksgiving. They said they enjoyed the food, but one wondered why Americans give thanks on one day instead of every day.
Thanksgiving from the Americans
Alger Aranda, a senior from the Philippines studying business management said, “I first experienced Thanksgiving on my mission. My companion at the time was from Utah and he suggested we celebrate Thanksgiving by having a dinner. I never really had it before but it was really cool, because we got the district together and we ate turkey, vegetables, and apple pies.”
When introduced to the idea of Thanksgiving, EJ Chek, a freshman from Hong Kong studying psychology said he was initially confused. He said, “I actually thought Thanksgiving was like Christmas. I thought you spent the day going around giving gifts to the people you’re grateful for.
“I heard about it on my mission in Australia when my mission president wanted to have the missionaries over to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. The missionaries close to the mission office got to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the mission president. My companion and I were too far away to join everyone, but we were invited to a member’s home.”
Reminiscing and smiling about his first Thanksgiving dinner, Chek said, “We didn’t have the usual things like turkey or mashed potatoes and gravy. We had some vegetables and roast beef. We joked and called it ‘Thanksgiving dinner.’”
Kealoha Vai Riky, a senior from Tahiti studying business management said, “I have celebrated [Thanksgiving] twice. My first Thanksgiving was okay on the spiritual plane because I was at the [Missionary Training Center], but the food wasn't really good. The food tasted boring. Like it had no spices.
“The second was when I was serving my mission in Madagascar. Sister Foote, my mission president’s wife, really knows how to cook. I remember having a good time playing games and talking with all the missionaries.”
The close of the harvest celebrated around the world
To Fubo Hou, a senior from China majoring in finance, Thanksgiving is a time for family reunion and people celebrating their gains from the past year. According to Hou he first experienced Thanksgiving in London, England. He said, “A member family invited us to go to their house for the Thanksgiving dinner. I helped them cook some food to add to the dinner.”
According to Jiyun Park, a freshman from Korea majoring in accounting, she first experienced Thanksgiving when she and her family first moved to America. Park’s third grade teacher invited the students for Thanksgiving dinner.
Remembering the food she had on her first Thanksgiving, Park said, “I know there was the basics like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, salad, casserole and many others. We also had the most important foods: cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. It was really fun and interesting because it was at my third grade teacher’s house. We had dinner and played games.”
Regarding the family gatherings associated with Thanksgiving, Park said, “I really like the fact that families and friends can gather together at least once a year. In Korea, we have a Thanksgiving as well, and it is nice to see our families because we don’t see them every day.”
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, Chuseok is the Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving. Traditionally, fruits and fish are served at Chuseok dinners.
In contrast to Chuseok, Tahiti doesn’t celebrate anything similar to Thanksgiving. According to Vai Riky, “My country doesn't have this kind of holiday, but we do eat turkey on New Year’s Eve. We basically eat smashed potatoes anytime we want.”
Vai Riky thought the idea of being grateful set on a specific day was interesting. He said, “Why would you set a specific day to be thankful for everything you have? Everyday should be Thanksgiving.”
According to Hou, China does not celebrate a similar holiday. Notwithstanding, he said he looks forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here on the island. Hou said, “A Hawaiian family has invited me to Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to having a great time with them. This probably is my last Thanksgiving in Hawaii before I return to China.”
According to Chek, when he was first introduced to Thanksgiving, he was grateful for members feeding the missionaries. Now home from his mission, he said, “Now I am grateful for my family, especially my parents. They provided a happy home for my brothers and I. I am also grateful for the Savior because we owe everything to Him and his sacrifice.”
Aranda expressed feelings of gratitude for the opportunity to study in America. He said, “I am grateful for the blessing and opportunity to study here at BYUH. I am the first from my family to come to America and this is big for my family. I am grateful for the temple here in Laie and being able to attend frequently.”