My first time experiencing Thanksgiving was while watching an episode of Tom and Jerry about the holiday.
The thing that caught my attention the most from that episode were the different and delicious looking foods that were prepared and left on the table. Another thing I remember from the episode is that Tom (the cat) was dressed in stereotypical Native American clothing, while Jerry (the mouse) was dressed in stereotypical pilgrim clothing, creating a rivalry between the two just like in every other episode.
After many shenanigans, some of which were probably offensive stereotypical gestures mocking Native American culture, the two have a truce and decide to enjoy the main meal together. That was a nice and rare moment, and those that have seen the show know that these two rarely get along with each other.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in my home country of Albania, so most of my experience with the holiday has been from pop culture. I always thought it was a holiday celebrated only in the US, because of the colonial history of the country. Many of the movies and shows that portrayed Thanksgiving had Native American and Pilgrim/Puritan cultures interacting with each other. That’s why I thought we didn’t celebrate it in Albania, as we didn’t colonize any land.
But when I came to Canada, I realized that Thanksgiving, while being influenced by colonization in North America, is also celebrated by other cultures around the world for either religious reasons, or just to celebrate a good harvest.
The first Thanksgiving I had in Canada, a friend of mine invited me to his house to celebrate with his family. I got to enjoy a nice dinner like the one in Tom and Jerry, and I got to meet new people.
At the end of everything I did feel thankful. Thankful that I was having a good time with good people, and thankful that I was experiencing what eating a meal with a family feels like again. As an international student, you are away from your family for a long time. You just start missing those small moments you had with the members of your family that you take for granted when you were with them, like eating a meal together.
During that Thanksgiving, I did feel thankful that I had those kinds of moments before, and that I still get to experience them now with my new friends in Canada. I still celebrate this holiday, and it’s not because I relate to any of the historical reasons it is celebrated, but rather the ideal behind it. Some days you need to appreciate and be thankful for all the things that positively contribute to your life.
Amo Pllumbi is in his fourth year of a Business Administration degree at CMU.