By Arianna Bernas, Opinion Editor
Thanksgiving was never a big deal to me. I always saw it as a very “American” holiday, much like Halloween. Even though my father did prepare Thanksgiving dinner and villages gave out candy on Halloween night, the trees stayed green and the air stayed hot and humid. To me, Halloween and Thanksgiving were temporary pauses within Christmas season.
Back home, the Christmas season starts in September. Restaurants start playing Christmas albums on repeat and Starbucks releases its Christmas drinks and Holiday Cards. Some families, mine included, skip Halloween altogether and put up lights and parols — Christmas lanterns — on our roofs. Shopping malls compete with one another to see who can erect the largest and most beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The air cools slightly, and families spend their free time planning Christmas feasts. Relatives fly in from all over the world to celebrate together. I may be biased in saying this, but no place does Christmas like the Philippines.
For a lot of us International Students, holidays like Thanksgiving or Halloween have always felt half-baked. Experiencing Halloween without pumpkins, or Thanksgiving without the fall leaves might have been special, but rather odd in the hot tropical sun.
Nevertheless, experiencing the holidays I never before this year paid much attention to has been interesting. It feels like there’s something new to celebrate every few weeks: from October break, to Halloween, and into Thanksgiving. It’s like receiving several small presents over time, as opposed to waiting a long time for a rather large one.
“It’s more exciting,” says Anna Landi, a first year at Bryn Mawr. Anna, a Korean-American born and raised in Thailand, had never celebrated Halloween. “It was just another day for us.” She continued, “It’s also really strange celebrating Christmas with palm trees and no snow. I never felt like I was fully experiencing that kind of Christmas.”
What’s particularly exciting about this holiday season, for us at least, is that part of it will feel completely new. Both Anna and I are spending Thanksgiving here and flying home for Christmas; she to Bangkok and I to Manila. We will both get a taste of the Thanksgiving we grew up hearing about; with the fall leaves and the week-long family and food fest. But then we get to return home to the familiarity of our own special types of Christmas. It’s a unique blend of tradition and discovery, of old and new.
At Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a tradition in my household to go around the table and pray about what you’re grateful for. In light of everything that’s happened this year, I think it’s important to remember all of the little things that help us to create a home away from home. I’m grateful for the new experiences I’ve had and the ones I look forward to experiencing. I am grateful for my friends who make this place feel more like home. I’m grateful for the Bi-Co community, for constantly teaching me something new.
What are you grateful for?