From turkey dinners to football games, Thanksgiving Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the United States – and the largest day for the food consumption. However, living in China can sometimes deteriorate the festive mood, as most of us still need to go to school or work, and often don’t have as much time to prepare a nice dinner. That being said, when those of us in the Thanksgiving spirit do find the time, it’s common for expats to create new traditions of their own. To find out more, we spoke to students and teachers of Tsinghua International School about some of their new Thanksgiving traditions after moving to Beijing.
“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was always with family, but as I got older and moved away from home, we started to have big Thanksgiving dinners with friends so there were always big parties with lots of people, and everyone would bring dishes.
The first time I came to Beijing, I worked at an A-level center, and everyone was British. There was one Canadian, so there were only two of us who [celebrated]Thanksgiving, but I refused to spend a year without it. So I went around the city, got a turkey, made cornbread, and had 22 people over for a Thanksgiving feast. After that, I started having people over for dinner every year. We’d have a big feast with all the foreign staff.” -Ms. Scott, social studies teacher
“Here in Beijing we don’t really do anything, but every summer when my family goes back to California to visit my cousins we have a “Jiang family summer Thanksgiving”, where we get a turkey and make cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and more. It all started when my grandparents got a turkey in the middle of July. We didn’t know what to do with it – it was really big – and in the end we decided to have a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but in the summer. It was yummy.” -Rina Jiang, Grade 9
“For a lot of people, Thanksgiving is a family event. You spend it with your family, extended family, or the family of your significant other. It’s all about family, and football games, obviously. It’s also kind of a potluck. Now, the sports component goes away when you’re abroad, but Thanksgiving in Beijing really highlights the sense of community – Thanksgiving dinners here are much more communal. Many people don’t have their families here with them, so they spend with others close to them – normally, back home, we wouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, but here we do. It becomes a house party of sorts, with co-workers and friends around the community. Everyone brings his or her best dish, which, to me, is the best part of Thanksgiving.” -Mr. Ramsay, English teacher
“I’m Chinese-Canadian, and back in Canada, Thanksgiving was a pretty big event. However, I never really took part of it. After coming back to Beijing and being surrounded by so many Westerners, Thanksgiving has become a much bigger deal. This year at my school, in one of my classes, we’re hosting a small potluck among the vegetarian community to celebrate everything we’re thankful for – and also to enjoy a good meal with friends and teachers.” -Audrey Tao, Grade 12
Rhea Jiang is a senior at Tsinghua International School, an international campus affiliated with Tsinghua High School. She is the co-editor-in-chief for the school newspaper, the Spartan Times, and co-president of the debate club. Through her blog posts, Rhea hopes to share her unique thoughts and experiences at Tsinghua International School.
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Photo: Satya Murthy (flickr)