Alternative Thanksgiving celebrations embrace gratefulness

A look at the different ways students celebrate Thanksgiving, whether it be incorporating their roots or simply breaking the typical tradition, and why their traditions are so important to them.

by Mary Massman, Lifestyles Editor

The smell of garlic and marinara sauce lingers in the air as sophomore Sophia Durone laughs with her sister. Pasta, meatballs, Italian bread, black olives, salad and cannolis line the table. For Durone, this is what constitutes a normal Thanksgiving.

“Ever since my family has immigrated from Italy, we have eaten Italian food for Thanksgiving,” Durone said. “We never had turkey because that just wasn’t apart of our culture.”

This unique celebration stems from her great-grandmother’s way of providing a Thanksgiving dinner for her family of five on little money.

“My grandpa’s mom and her family immigrated to Ellis Island, and she only had $20 to take care of them,” Durone said. “They ended up in Missouri, and I imagine they were grateful for [their] culture. So they incorporated that into their new life in America.”

Even though Durone’s family is now immersed in American culture everyday, her Italian heritage has impacted how she and her family view Thanksgiving.

“We don’t really take into account any of the pilgrim stuff,” Durone said. “We focus more on the ‘what we’re thankful for’ aspect. Since that wasn’t part of our history, we just choose to celebrate other aspects of our history integrated into this American tradition.”

Although this tradition is deeply rooted in Durone’s family, some other families’ traditions are more spontaneous. Sophomore Liv Desantis and her family celebrated Thanksgiving last year at Clinton Lake, which they had never done before.

“In the past, we’ve had a very traditional Thanksgiving with close family friends, but last year decided to change it up,” Desantis said.

The change of scenery for Thanksgiving didn’t leave any dull moments for Desantis and her family. They went hiking around Clinton Lake, played a lot of cards and even continued their annual tradition of playing football.

“Last Thanksgiving we all gave up our phones during the break,” Desantis said. “It was great to take times and really be with my family without distractions. I don’t think anyone really missed the phones”

In addition to being at the lake, Desantis and her family celebrated Thanksgiving with a Creole dish instead of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Desantis doesn’t mind the change because she feels their Christmas meal closely resembles a Thanksgiving dinner.

“Last year, my family and I ate red beans and rice with a side of cornbread for Thanksgiving,” Desantis said. “Red beans and rice, one of my favorite meals ever, is a Louisiana Creole dish served over white rice. My mom uses an old family recipe made of red beans, sauted vegetables, spices, pork and sausage cooked together for hours and served over rice.”

Similar to Durone’s way of celebrating Thanksgiving, while acknowledging her heritage, Spanish teacher Maria Lopez Gonzales started incorporating Peruvian dishes into her Thanksgiving when she married her husband. They combined both of their cultures to create a special Thanksgiving.

“Usually we eat a mix of Peruvian and traditional American food,” Lopez said. “This includes turkey, gravy, tamales, rice etc. We have also prepared aji de gallina y arroz con pollo, which were served at STA for Hispanic Heritage week.”

With different ingredients available in Peru and America, it is hard to get all the Peruvian ingredients in the local supermarkets, so they sometimes will order them online. Her mom cooks the dishes, but Lopez enjoys helping her prepare the food as well. Since first celebrating Thanksgiving in 2012, Lopez has come to love Thanksgiving.

“My family thought it was a nice celebration that brought the family together,” Lopez said. “I was surprised by eggnog because I didn’t know that the United States has a traditional holiday beverage. I love it and it is my favorite thing to drink during the holidays. “

Although Lopez’s Thanksgiving may consist of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, decorating her home, lots of food prep and gathering with her family as most people do, the Peruvian food on Thanksgiving will always remind her of where she’s from.

“It helps my husband and his family to learn more about Peruvian culture and helps me stay connected to my roots,” Lopez said. “I believe it is important to be proud of who you are and to keep family traditions alive. I think that my holidays are special and unique because we combine both cultures.”

Durone agrees with Lopez that integrating aspects of her heritage into an American holiday means much more to her than just cooking with different ingredients.

“It’s easy to forget where I come from,” Durone said. “I’m not surrounded by the Italian culture everyday, since we live in Missouri. This reminds me of who I am and what my family has been through to get us here today.”