International Students Anticipate Their First Thanksgiving Celebration

Monica Sosa-Hernandez, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The special holiday of Thanksgiving is coming up fast. The time to eat turkey, give thanks for the blessings that one has received throughout the year so far and spend time with family and friends.  

But not everyone celebrates it. 

International students from Notre Dame Academy explained similar traditions in their countries and their anticipation about celebrating the Thanksgiving custom here.

“We do not celebrate Thanksgiving at all as it is deeply rooted to American history. We do not have a reason to celebrate it,” said Tereza Kankova from Slovakia. 

Matej Rusinak, also from Slovakia, said the same thing as Kankova.

 “We do not celebrate it because we don’t really have pilgrim fathers. Yes, I admit that someone came there and probably was thankful for that country, but it was in the 7th century C.E.” 

However, he did say that there are different feasts that they celebrate in his country,such as having a tradition that has special alcohol served before every meal. This drink is called Slivovica, which is made out of plums. The food eaten is usually schnitzel with potato salad and cabbage rolls. In the place where Rusinak lives, he says it is called Holubky. 

“Among other dishes, Bryndzové halušky, which is one kind of cheese that can be mainly found in Slovak and Polish community. It cannot be found in Wisconsin. I tried the kind that is made of sheep milk. I also tried a special kind of cheese and dumplings made of sheep milk,” explained Rusinak. 

These Slovakian meals are usually eaten primarily with family, such as we do for Thanksgiving. Of course, there may be friends who are invited, but as far as friends go, family seems to be much more important for the holiday. 

Another NDA student from Berlin, Germany, also does not celebrate Thanksgiving, but she does have another tradition similar to Thanksgiving. This celebration is called Erntedankfest. 

Elizabeth Bernauer says that Erntedankfest is celebrated during the month of September or October as a religious holiday in churches as a harvest fest but is not considered a national holiday. 

“In Christian churches, most people bring some goods, mainly vegetables/fruits/flowers of the season, or pastries, and lay them in front of the altar. Most times after the service, everybody takes some of the other food home to share with the family,” said Bernauer. 

This year the students will be celebrating Thanksgiving for the very first time in America, something that they are all excited to do.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be huge with a lot of family, and I’m excited to experience this kind of new holiday celebration, and having a short break from school isn’t so bad,” said Bernauer. 

Kankova echoes that comment:  “I am extremely excited about it because I can see a lot of excitement about this holiday. I will spend time together with my awesome host family, eat a lot, watch movies and simply enjoy this unique experience.”