Thankful from a distance: Spending Thanksgiving away from what you’re thankful for

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq Peoples. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq Peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) titles and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.

For those that celebrate Thanksgiving, it is a time to be grateful and gather with family.. However, many students are spending Thanksgiving away from their families, perhaps for the first time. This leads to new experiences and conflicting emotions.

“My family, which are in Vancouver on the West Coast by the way, gathers at my grandmother’s house and we eat good food; my mother’s pies are the pinnacle of the evening, but we also have Brussels sprouts (for anyone who doesn’t know it’s integral to bake them rather than boiling), parsnips, chicken in lieu of turkey, and the usual cranberry sauce among a few other things,” said Lily Baker, a third-year classical studies student. It was her first Thanksgiving spent away from her family, and she had no plans for the day other than to call home. Baker commented that she was “disappointed to be missing out on my favourite pies of the year, and sorely missing the time with my family and friends. It’s actually surprised me how melancholic it’s made me feel, but I also know that I can look forward to a very warm welcome come Christmas and I’m looking forward to that all the more.”

The time spent away from family has given her a new appreciation for them and some new things to be thankful for. “I’m deeply grateful to have such supportive and loving family and friends and for technology that allows me to talk with and see them even when I’m across the country,” she said. “Despite all of the obvious and intense negatives during the pandemic, I’m also grateful that quarantine really prepared me for being away from everyone, and reassured me that the connections I have can be maintained without being physically present.”

Other students share similar experiences, like Max Kuhl, a French major. “My family usually does a prime rib and invites all of the immediate family over for dinner, with the typical works,” he said. Like Baker, Kuhl also had no real plans for the day other than to make a call home. His feelings on being away from home for Thanksgiving were mixed. “It’s nice to choose my own path and do my own things of course, but I also miss them (that’s what December will be for).” Kuhl was also given new things to be thankful for this year. “I’m thankful for a smooth transition, welcoming campus with staff and students alike, and for a good year to come.”

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