Immigration Stories – Green Bean Casserole, Cheesy Potatoes with Corn Flakes, and a Foreigner’s First Thanksgiving – by Hannes Stenström. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[The College of St. Scholastica Nordic Ski Team ready for Thanksgiving dinner]
An interesting thing about living in another country, not just visiting it as a tourist, is that it gives you the opportunity of taking full part in the new country’s traditions. Some of them might be similar or identical to the ones at home, others might be something entirely different. From my viewpoint, I’d say that Thanksgiving falls somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum.
Being enrolled here at the College of St. Scholastica and also being a part of the Nordic Ski Team at the College, I got the chance to experience a (somewhat) traditional American Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago.
There’s no real equivalent to Thanksgiving in Sweden, so the whole concept of the Turkey dinner was completely unfamiliar to me except from small glimpses of it conveyed via American movies and TV-series. However, I find the idea of devoting a holiday to gratitude towards what one has and all the good things that one has been given to be a very good one, and something that should be more cherished in Western culture. After all, even though the riches of the western world might not be distributed equally, the majority of both Swedes and Americans live in what can only be described as a historically unrivaled period of economic prosperity and safety.
Since Thanksgiving usually coincides with the coming of the first snow in the more wintry areas of the U.S, it is common for American Nordic skiers to eat their Turkey dinners away from home according to my American teammates. Mid-November is also a time when it’s crucial for skiers to switch from roller skis to the real deal in order to get the feel for the snow and be ready when racing starts in full swing in the beginning of December, so a lot of people use the days off to go on training camps. This does not come without some tension among families for which Thanksgiving serves as an occasion when the whole family is to be gathered and share meals, especially if the times when all of the family is in one place are few and far between. In this case, we in the St. Scholastica Nordic Ski Team were in Calumet, Michigan that had been hit by a few feet of snow just before Thanksgiving for a training camp. The team served as a substitute family for everyone during this holiday, and even though it might not be a family in the most traditional sense of the word I think that we still managed to encapsulate some of the Thanksgiving spirit in the way we celebrated it.
A lot of Turkey was consumed, along with a plethora of other traditional and non-traditional dishes in the style of a potluck dinner. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with the cooking skills of the guys on the team; people were placing one plate of goodness after another on the table. Some things I could recognize from festive occasions in Sweden, others were new experiences, such as green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes with corn flakes, pumpkin pie and stuffing. It was definitely a feast and I clearly realized that this is a very important occasion for most Americans. Some of my teammates said that they would place Thanksgiving right after Christmas as the most significant holiday of the year. Seeing how important of a family tradition this is and hearing my teammates talk about how their families were saddened by not having them at home made me realize that quite some time has passed since I last saw my own family as I left Sweden in August. Being on an athletic team has definitely helped with keeping the feeling of homesickness in check, especially on occasions like these. I can imagine that Thanksgiving could have been a tough experience if all of my teammates were to go home to their families, leaving my Norwegian friend Emil and I all alone at campus. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go through that kind of emotional marshland, and with winter break quickly approaching it won’t be long until it I’ll be able to sit down and enjoy a hot chocolate with my family.
Hannes Stenström serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports
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