The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Four — My first real Thanksgiving (US) experience by Ana María Camelo Vega

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Four — My first real Thanksgiving (US) experience by Ana María Camelo Vega

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For most of the people in The United States, Thanksgiving is a day full of food, family and good times. But what about people from somewhere other that The United States? What does this day mean for internationals? Many of us, did not even know about this holiday. Nevertheless, it is really interesting for me as an international student to know a little bit about its background, and how it became so important for the majority of people in The United States.

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Firstly, it is important to take into account the school where I come from. For this instance, Catholic Sisters who came all the way from Rochester, USA to Colombia, South America, founded my school. This little fact might be a determinant in the way that we did learn general world history, and we did not focus only in ours. I remember learning the story about the little ship called the “Mayflower”, and how the Pilgrims and the English reunited to have an outstanding dinner in which they thanked and shared for the blessings received. It is interesting to see how this event became a tradition some years later; to the point that now it is one of the most important United States national holidays. At the same time, it is interesting to see the way in which Thanksgiving might have become an incredible commercial date. Lots of food –including meals that were not part of the original Thanksgiving dinner- are produced locally and nationally, decorations and music are claimed all around the country, followed by a crazy shopping day: Black Friday.

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Personally, I had never thought of this day as something really special. Back in Colombia, people do not celebrate this day. Most of the people do not even know that Thanksgiving is actually a holiday in The United States. Nevertheless, when I think about the real background of this date, and the way in which it became a tradition with the specific purpose of thanking the ones you love for every single blessing received, it turns out to be a very meaningful date. Accordingly, going further than the special pumpkin pie and the giant roasted turkey, the real meaning of this holiday is truly valuable and should apply to any culture or country.

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Now, this was my first experience of a real United States Thanksgiving. As I do not have family here, I could not experience the familiar and big traditional dinner. And so, I decided to go with some other Colombian friends to The Twin Cities. We stayed in a hotel in Downtown, and spent the Thanksgiving break there. For the Thanksgiving dinner itself, we made a special reservation in one of the few restaurants that were open that evening, and we had an amazing “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity to thank God and life itself for all the opportunities we have day to day, for all the new people we meet, and for the family we have.

Ergo, it is important to see, that the real meaning of this day goes further than the traditional commercial propaganda about Thanksgiving. And so, if we know and understand more the background of this date, we will be able to understand how it is the perfect opportunity to be thankful, and why not, enjoy an outstanding dinner with friends and family!
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see

For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to our collaborative program.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world.  We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

6 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Four — My first real Thanksgiving (US) experience by Ana María Camelo Vega

  1. This article was really well written and brought up some interesting points about a holiday that I often just “go through the motions” with so to speak. I think it’s interesting that the idea behind Thanksgiving is so kind and pure, but we have really commercialized and changed the holiday. I know my family still celebrates a traditional Thanksgiving but I also know plenty of families that are more focus on Black Friday than Thanksgiving. I find it interesting to watch and study how holidays grow and change over the years. I do have one question for the author though, and that’s what was the significance of the pictures for this story?

  2. Mindy

    This was a great article to read and opened my mind to remember what the real meaning of Thanksgiving is. I think everyone should read this as a reminder and to just be aware how caught up in the “commercial” view of thanksgiving we can all get. It’s so easy to take these kinds of holidays for granted and it’s nice to have a polite reminder to not forget what the real meaning is.

  3. I usually prepare the Thanksgiving feast for my entire family, but this year I was toying with the idea of saving myself the work and expense by cancelling Thanksgiving…UNTIL I READ THIS ARTICLE! Thank you for reminding me of how blessed I am to have my family, and what a blessing it is to be able to provide a Thanksgiving feast for the ones I love. Thank you for reminding me that sharing our Thanksgiving with someone who is away from home or who does not have family is what this holiday is all about. You are an exceptional person for recognizing the value of a tradition that is foreign to you and wanting to make it your own. You are a genuine traveler.

  4. Ashley Svihel

    This was a great way to explain the real meaning and concept of Thanksgiving. Sometimes we forget the meaning of this holiday because of the food and like you mentioned Black Friday. Which is now starting Thursday night on Thanksgiving, crazy! We should slow down and give thanks like the day was originally supposed to be for and share this sacred time with our family members. Like you said in your article, when we think about the true meaning of Thanksgiving it is an important holiday. Awesome article that I agree with one hundred percent.

  5. Rachel Studley

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for the same reason. It is simply a day to get to together with loved ones, eat amazing food, and enjoy each people’s company. Since I was born in the US I have of course been celebrating it my whole life unlike you, but we both arrived at the same conclusions.

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