Personal essay: As an international student, I created my own Thanksgiving tradition here

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By Krishika Jethani

In Panama, we traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving in late November with copious amounts of food, love and laughter. My family never really cooked Thanksgiving meals, as it was always hit or miss. But since we had wonderful neighbours who loved cooking a traditional turkey meal, we would normally bring some sort of snack. Although we celebrated in Panama, we always stuck to the classic meal—turkey with a thick gravy that went perfect with buttery and soft mashed potatoes, and a bit of stuffing as well. Everyone brought something and it was a meal to be shared by all. 

This is my second year as an international student studying creative industries at Ryerson and being away from home gets harder with every holiday that passes. 

Compared to Toronto, it is very hot in Panama. This is sometimes a good thing because we could celebrate outside in the backyard rather than inside with a heater on. It’s nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the warm weather, which is one of the things I miss most about home while being here in Toronto. It was also exciting to share this special holiday with those who have different cultures, but want to celebrate the same way my family does. 

As the different neighbourhood families united for a Thanksgiving meal, it was a beautiful experience to sit, relax and eat food together. It’s the holiday I always look forward to.

After 2020, the year of COVID-19 and isolation, I was excited for this year’s Thanksgiving as, in a way, it would bring back the comfort and joy of celebrating with friends and family that was taken away from us. This year, I celebrated here in Toronto with some of my friends. I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner that turned out to be as fun and comforting as the dinners I would have in Panama. 

“Being surrounded by friends here in Toronto brought back the comfort of celebrating back home…”

As a group of 10 or so people, we got together at a friend’s apartment and celebrated the holiday together. The mixture of food, drinks, music and friends was the exact energy that I was looking for after a long year of isolation. We ordered a Thanksgiving meal from the Italian restaurant, Eataly, including turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. As we all sat together at the dining table, we took turns writing and sharing what we were thankful for this year. This lighthearted dinner was filled with appreciation and happiness towards each other. 

After our meal, we gorged on a dessert of pumpkin pie, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies and more. Combined with a glass of Moscato, this meal was exactly what my stomach needed. Being surrounded by friends here in Toronto brought back the comfort of celebrating back home with friends and family. 

Thanksgiving is a different holiday for everyone and some celebrate it differently than others. Being an international student here at Ryerson, I celebrated Thanksgiving differently this time around, but still enjoyed it to the fullest.

With my family being back at home, I created a new tradition here. Compared to a home-cooked meal celebrating with my family, a take-out Thanksgiving meal surrounded by friends that feel like family is the only thing I needed this year. 

Being so far away from Panama, it made Toronto feel like my second home. At the end of the day, the one thing that matters the most in Thanksgiving is the feeling of relief and support surrounded by those who you love. 

These are my own traditions now, and I am already looking forward to next year’s Thanksgiving. 

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