International Take on an American Tradition

While Thanksgiving might feel like a distant memory, we thought sharing our international boarders’ impressions of this American tradition was in keeping with the spirit of this festive time of year.

Many of us have treasured memories of gathering around the dining room table, as a parent or grandparent skillfully carved a carefully roasted turkey to begin our Thanksgiving celebration. Warm recollections such as this often form the bonds of our family histories.

On an evening each November, this familiar scene is replicated at over a dozen tables in the Fessenden dining room, as faculty families and boarding students share a specially prepared dinner in celebration of the holiday. Our amazing kitchen staff goes beyond expectations to insure our boys enjoy an authentic holiday dining experience, complete with all the trappings. At the head of each table stands a boy ready to do the honors of carving the turkey, while his friends and teachers savor both the meal and the moment.

Because this observance is so distinctly American, many of our international boarding students experience this occasion for the first time while at Fessenden — a cultural sharing that is a wonderful by-product of our diverse community. I asked some of my students from around the world how they felt about this quintessential American celebration…

was not just impressed, I was fascinated. Yes, we do celebrate Thanksgiving in my family, but it’s not even close to how they celebrate here in the US. When they first told me we were going to have a Thanksgiving dinner, I assumed it was just going to be some turkey and that was it. No! Here at Fessenden, they don’t just make a splendid dinner, they celebrate with their whole hearts. You see a difference in everyone’s attitude, and that’s just astonishing. Some people just make a nice elegant dinner on Thanksgiving, but Fessenden has showed me that some people do way more than that. They change their whole attitude. — Sergio Kuri ( 9th grader from Mexico)

I had lots of fun celebrating Thanksgiving. I loved the food and the warm feeling you get while eating with your friends. Back in Mexico we do not celebrate this unique holiday but I’m glad that I had the chance to experience it here at Fessy. —  Jeronimo Sanchez-Navarro ( 9th grader from Mexico)

The major festival we celebrate here in America, but not in Japan is Thanksgiving, which is a celebration when we thank our family and friends for what they did for us throughout the year. As it was my second time having Thanksgiving turkey, I had a better understanding of it and found it more interesting as I learned about its history. —  Yuoh Lee ( 8th grader from Japan)

I really think that having a Thanksgiving break is a great way to be thankful for everything you have and also at the same time have some rest. It is an event that has only been celebrated by the American culture, but as I experienced it for the 3rd time this year, I feel like this holiday should be shared by the others in the world just like Christmas, so everyone can know about it.  — Takuma Noguchi  (8th grader from Japan)

It feels good to know that the incredible benefits we experience because of the presence of boys from different countries in our school is reciprocated, and that their experience is is enhanced by these celebrations. We are truly fortunate that we have these opportunities to share the richness of our cultures with each other, an important element of 21st Century learning. Stop by the Bernon Hall Lobby and Wheeler Library hallway to see the Festival of Lights display, created by the parents in FAME, which presents artifacts and information about the myriad holiday traditions enjoyed by members of the Fessenden community around the world.

About the Author

Dan Kiley is a frequent contributor to our Inside Fessenden blogs. He writes from the perspective of thirty five years as an administrator at Fessenden, including twenty as Assistant Head and a year as Interim Head of School, as well as teacher, coach, dorm parent, director of plays, and parent of three graduates. 

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