A Twist on Turkey: Different Cultures Celebrate Thanksgiving
Layla Kenkare ’25 and Asher Joseph ’25
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has become synonymous with family, feasting, and gratitude, but people across different cultures have created new ways to incorporate their own heritage into the festivities. The Razor explored how members of the Hopkins community celebrate Thanksgiving within their own cultures.
According to many students, a typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and other fall dishes. While these dishes can be prepared in various ways to accommodate various diets, they remain staples for many Hopkins students’ Thanksgiving dinners. James Fisher ’28 explains that his typical Thanksgiving meal includes “turkey (perhaps kosher) and sweet potato pie.”An anonymous student ’23 adds a twist on the traditional turkey dinner by substituting it with “Tofurkey,” or “tofu turkey for vegetarians.”
Other respondents reported that they ignore the traditional turkey dinners by incorporating foods from their own culture into their Thanksgiving meals. Rijul Mukherjee ’24 and his family make South Asian dishes like “masala chicken” in addition to “[mac and cheese], bread rolls, salad, [and] cake.” Marco Buschauer ’23 and his family prepare traditional Chinese meals like “Chinese hot pot” for their Thanksgiving dinner, a dining method that involves cooking meat, vegetables, and other foods in a pot of simmering soup. Amalia Tuchmann ’23 made babka for her family, a sweet braided bread that originated in Jewish communities across Europe.
On the other hand, a few students shared that their families do not observe the dining aspect of the holiday, but instead emphasize the value of family and coming together. “My parents both immigrated here before they had me, and so they never really had the tradition of a Thanksgiving meal growing up,” says Shriya Sakalkale ’24. “A part of me felt like I was missing out on something, because a big meal with my extended family isn’t something I could easily do, as most of our family is back in India.” Melody Cui ’23 shares a similar sentiment, saying “Honestly, food has never been a big part of our ‘celebrations’ of Thanksgiving because my parents immigrated from China and never really learned about these Thanksgiving traditions. The holiday has mainly just been an opportunity for my family to spend some more time together, since it’s one of the few times we all have time off.”
Although Thanksgiving is predominantly celebrated in the United States, the custom of giving thanks is prevalent across many cultures. In China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a holiday that takes place in late September to mark the harvest season. “We eat a ton of food together and attend festivals and celebrations,” says Amanda Wang ’23. “It’s definitely more about being with people regardless of whether or not they’re in your family. I feel like Thanksgiving is more about family, but [the Mid-Autumn Festival] is also about friends and other people who are meaningful to you.”
Family emerges as a centerpiece in many cultures, especially those that focus on gratitude. Evie Doolittle ’23 weighs in on the importance of spending time with loved ones during her fall celebrations, saying “Oktoberfest is similar to Thanksgiving. We don’t go to a festival or anything. In my family, everyone comes to my grandparents’ house and we share a meal together.” She continues, “We still celebrate Thanksgiving with my other set of grandparents. Besides the food, the two holidays, at least in my house, do not differ too much.
Although Thanksgiving has evolved into new traditions across many cultures, they share the values of family and unity. Sakalkale says, “Even though it’s been just [my parents and me] most Thanksgivings, I feel like we’ve still been able to celebrate and value the most important part of Thanksgiving: Spending time with one another.”