From Zimbabwe to the United States – Thanksgiving — The North Star Reports – by Angel Nomthandazo Sibanda. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[Photo credit: see — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpkin_pie#mediaviewer/File:Pumpkin-Pie-Slice.jpg ]
Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin spice cakes. At first, to me this seemed to be all that Thanksgiving was about.
Should I have any feelings about it? Am I weird for seeing it as any other ordinary day, and an excuse for a longer and maybe “well-deserved” break from school? These were the questions running through my mind because at home in Zimbabwe, Africa, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I really didn’t know what Thanksgiving was until I came here. Seeing that no one explained it to me, I decided to look it up and this is what Google had to say to me about Thanksgiving: “the expression of gratitude, especially to God” and “(in North America) an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey.” Even with these definitions I still didn’t feel excited about it. I couldn’t think of anything special that I would have been doing at this time of the year had I been at home.
With about five days of no school, I had my break planned out: two days would be just for catching up on school work and getting started on a project that was due in two weeks. The remaining three days I set aside for a lot of catching up on sleep, those movies I have been meaning to watch, a Skype date with that friend I have been meaning to talk to in a while, and finally reading that novel that had been sitting on my dresser since the beginning of the semester. Then I got invited to Thanksgiving dinner by Charmaine.* I thought to myself that I could watch a full movie or two in the time it would take, but I thought why not go and see what everyone is excited about and experience something different.
Over twenty relatives were gathered at Charmaine’s place. There was cooking and trips down memory lane as embarrassing pictures from fifteen years ago were brought out. It was then that I realized that Thanksgiving did have significance to me. Maybe in a different way, but it did. It reminded me of home and the big family gatherings we have at my grandmother’s rural homestead. The timing might be different but they are family get-togethers nonetheless. For past gatherings, I always knew we had to be up at 5:00 a.m. and make sure we kept a pot of tea brewing at all times for that uncle who had to have a cup of tea every thirty minutes or else he would have a headache. Usually we had 30-plus people attending because for my family, a family gathering did not mean just my parents, siblings, and I– it meant my cousins and aunts, uncles and great great aunts, younger grandmothers and older grandmothers. Actually, anyone from the Sibanda clan was always invited. We usually had enough food to feed an army because a goat would be slaughtered, two chickens killed, and sadza (our staple food), rice, samp and a whole lot of different foods would be cooked. This was because it is normal for my relatives after the ceremony to leave with dishes of meat, rice, or sadza to eat when they returned home. Therefore we always made enough for people to carry with them if they wanted.
Sitting there at Charmaine’s I realized that Thanksgiving reminded me of appreciating family and getting together to keep that family bond together even though we did not see each other often. I smiled remembering that whenever we had a gathering I was bound to meet a new cousin that I did not know I had. Most importantly it was always fun to sit there and listen to how our family got to be where it is today as my grandfather would tell us about the family history. I realized that those gatherings were in a way thanksgiving to me because we got the chance to appreciate each other and “express gratitude.”
*not her real name
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
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