Thanksgiving little known to international students

by | Oct 10, 2014 | Life

Jessenia Feijo 

Life Reporter 

Thanksgiving may be a national holiday, but not everyone indulges in turkey dinner – or is entirely sure what the occasion is about.

“Every time an explorer would come back (to Europe) from the New World, they would give thanks and there would be usually a church service. That’s where the term Thanksgiving came from, it gave thanks,” said Toronto historian and tour guide Bruce Bell.

The Americans were the ones to begin the holiday of Thanksgiving.

“But around the Victorian time, so in the 19th century, the middle class started to grow and our harvest came in October and so we thought we would do the same thing,” said Bell, noting that Canada joined the tradition with an adjustment in timing to reflect differences in climate and crop cycles.

“We thought it would be a great idea to, kind of haphazard, sometime in October to give thanks to the harvest,” Bell said.

Bell said it wasn’t until 1957 that Thanksgiving was officially declared a national holiday in Canada that would take place on the second Monday of October. The American version in late November has a nationalistic flavour and begins the holiday approach to Christmas.

Gabriela Carrasco, 21, a second-year international student from Mexico and a Applications Processor at Humber’s International Centre is aware of Thanksgiving, but doesn’t celebrate it.

“Usually in Mexico some schools that are bilingual do teach you American tradition so that’s how I knew about Thanksgiving before coming here,” said Carrasco.

Like Carrasco, fellow international student Jenny Jeong, 19, a second-year Hospitality and Event Planning student, said she hasn’t celebrated Thanksgiving since she arrived in Canada three years ago.

Jeong, originally from South Korea, said she recognizes the holiday, but when the day comes she’ll eat whatever is in her fridge.

“After understanding what Thanksgiving is, I would say our New Year’s is like a Thanksgiving because it is very long and involves family visits,” said Jeong. “I would like to start celebrating it. I love turkey and getting together.”

Because some international students do not have families here or  know about the celebration, the Humber International Centre has made it a goal to help overseas visitors mark this long weekend in some way.

The centre will be taking international students to Ottawa and Montreal to explore and celebrate a special dinner with everyone who attends, said Carrasco.

“The International Centre here wants to make sure that students that come to study from all over the world feel like they are a part of a family even if they are miles away. We try really hard to achieve that,” said Carrasco