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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

An Australian's First Thanksgiving

Why is everyone getting so excited about Turkey? I asked myself this before doing some research and scrubbing up on a little American history. After watching some old guy with a receding hairline and big glasses on YouTube, I now understand that Thanksgiving is about more than just a giant bird.

Most of you probably know this already, but for others like me who had no idea, this is how Thanksgiving came to be. According to this guy on YouTube, in 1621 a group of settlers in Massachusetts were grateful that they had survived a horrific winter. They invited their Native American neighbours to celebrate with them by eating a heap of food.

Now this sounds like the right way of celebrating to me. Anything that involves food, I'm there. I may not have braved a really horrific winter, but I have had to participate in numerous socially awkward mingles around the free food table at countless events.

At this point I should probably tell you I am not American. I am from Australia, and no, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving back home. If one more person asks me this, I am going to slam a history book down in front of them. I wish we had a national holiday back home that involved sitting around a table eating copious amounts of food with friends and family. But we don't.

Instead, we have Australia Day, which essentially is a celebration of the day the English colonizers took over the land. We usually just sit around and drink all day, although a turkey could be useful to soak up all that liquor, and act as an added prevention for the horrific headache that usually follows the next day.

It became clear to me about three weeks before the actual Thanksgiving break just how seriously Americans took this holiday. Maybe it was because college students are desperate for any reason to escape the gates of the university, even if only for a few days. It soon became clear that Thanksgiving was like a second Christmas, only this time it involved a turkey instead of a fat guy wearing red.

My Thanksgiving did not go according to plan. I somehow ended up in San Francisco riding the subway with my older brother and his girlfriend. I'd arrived in the Bay Area of California the night before and my system had already gone into shock from the number of hipsters strolling the streets.

Needless to say, it was Thanksgiving, and I'd somehow ended up in the most poverty-ridden area of the city. On the train heading towards the restaurant, I eagerly waited my turkey lunch, and couldn't help but notice all of the homeless people around me. While most people were celebrating this all-American holiday with their friends and family, it was all the more clear that there are many others who have very little to be thankful for and nowhere to call home.

While most of my friends were scattered across New York, scarfing up turkey and cranberry sauce, I was on a train sharing the same space with a homeless transvestite begging me for a trade of "four quarters for a dollar note."

As corny as this will sound, it certainly made me stop and appreciate the small things. At least I had a roof over my head and a doggy-bag full of turkey left over from the restaurant. I am not going to deny that I got caught up in the nostalgia of Thanksgiving and really did consider the things I have to be grateful for. When I actually stop and think about it, there is so much I am lucky to have.

So while my first Thanksgiving involved a dirty subway and turkey that my brother and I still purport was out of a tin can, I still managed to muster up the spirit of being thankful. I think you guys might be onto something with this holiday of good food, quality family time and days off of school. Aside from the obvious historical and religious disparities, it is sort of like Christmas – only you don't have the added stress of having to buy a Secret Santa gift.

Email: sophiehe@buffalo.edu


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