Thanksgiving is known around the world as an American holiday where family and friends come together to give thanks over comfort food. The holiday is only celebrated in a handful of locations including the United States, Canada, Norfolk Island, Puerto Rico and Liberia.
The Nexus spoke to international students and those studying abroad at UCSB to see how their Thanksgiving experiences compared to the images they had of the holiday.
Third-year political science major Alice Lomas is from Devon, England, and said she had an idealized image of Thanksgiving from American media.
“I had seen [Thanksgiving] in all the American films, and I thought it was a massive family gathering with a turkey and a traditional Sunday roast experience, similar to what our Christmas is like,” Lomas said.
While Lomas said she cooked and spent the holiday with friends, she said it was lacking because family is what makes the tradition special.
“It kind of lived up to the expectations, but because we didn’t have our own family there, it was not the same,” Lomas said.
Fourth-year sociology major Cæcilie Køhler is from Copenhagen, Denmark, and said she understood Thanksgiving after watching television shows and movies portraying the American tradition, which she added is similar to a Danish Christmas.
“It’s like this in Denmark during Christmas. Some people even eat so much that they have to go to the hospital,” Køhler said, laughing.
Second-year economics major Xiaoyu Li from Beijing, China, compared his Thanksgiving experience in the U.S. to festivals in China because of Black Friday sales.
“In China, there isn’t Thanksgiving, but there is a festival there that all the shops celebrate . . . It’s like a Black Friday sale,” Li said.
Li said while he ate turkey and went Black Friday shopping during his first year at UCSB, this year he decided to spend it with friends making traditional Chinese food.
“I went to Big Bear with a group of students and ate hot pot [an East Asian stew],” Li said.
Second-year mathematical science major Omicron Wang from Chongqing, China, likened Thanksgiving to Spring Festival, known as Chinese New Year.
“This is a time where every member of the family comes together,” Wang said. “We regard Thanksgiving in the U.S. as a regular holiday.”
Second-year financial mathematics major Jennifer Sun from the Shandong province of China said although the food and traditions may be different, the values of the Chinese New Year and American Thanksgiving are similar.
“When the Chinese New Year comes, we renew together and make traditional food like dumplings, just like people in the U.S. make traditional food and spend it with family,” Sun said.
Second-year statistics major Shiwei Hua from Wuhan, China, said American Thanksgiving is similar to the Lunar Festival in China in some ways, but differs in others.
“The Lunar Festival is when everywhere from the family gets together and eats traditional foods,” Hua said. “It’s a time for family to get together. I thought there would be many people in the street because during Lunar New Year we have games and puzzles all in the street.”
Regardless of location or name, holidays provide an opportunity to celebrate one’s culture with the people, food and traditions that are important to them.