How do the students of Berkeley High School (BHS) celebrate Thanksgiving? Everyone has different traditions that reflect their family’s history, religion, and beliefs.
For Cahyani Dewi, a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC), Thanksgiving is an opportunity to have a meal with her cousins, but isn’t really “a big thing.” Dewi said that because her parents did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, she has not inherited a personal connection to the holiday.
“I would say that we don’t have much of an emotional connection to it, so sometimes we’ll celebrate it, sometimes we won’t, it really just depends,” Dewi said. “I don’t find it to be a very important celebration.”
Eloise Bear shared a different perspective. Bear, a freshman in Universal Ninth Grade (U9), sees Thanksgiving as an important holiday. She has been celebrating Thanksgiving every year with her family for her entire life and plans to continue this tradition into the future.
Noa Ledor, a junior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), does not participate in Thanksgiving for religious reasons.
“It’s not permitted by Jewish law for a Jew to adopt holidays celebrated by gentiles,’’ Ledor said. “So for that reason, I only celebrate holidays that are exclusive to Jewish people.”
But the celebration still continues around him. Ledor’s nuclear family “alternates” between celebrating Thanksgiving and not. Ledor said that he doesn’t go out of his way to avoid Thanksgiving, he just doesn’t see it as special.
Thanksgiving is a unique holiday for many people in that their celebrations revolve primarily around food and not gift-giving or religion, as is common with other holidays. Gwen Weber-Stover, a sophomore in BIHS, observed that her family’s Thanksgiving traditions are similar to those they have for other celebrations, like family birthdays or other events.
“You can get together with your family and make a bunch of food,” Weber-Stover said. “I kind of do that anyway for birthdays.”
Weber Stover also pointed out that COVID-19 was affecting family gatherings for the second year in a row. People may feel less comfortable traveling to see family or interacting with unvaccinated relatives.
“We were going to go to my grandma’s house, but then my aunt got COVID-19 so we’re not going, because she is still going,” said Weber-Stover. “My mom feels like my aunt is putting my grandparents and the rest of our family members in danger by being unvaccinated, having COVID, and still choosing to be unmasked in my grandma’s house.” Weber-Stover had a moderate view on the importance of Thanksgiving, saying that she would probably celebrate a similar holiday in the future, but wasn’t sure that she wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving as an adult because of the history associated with it.
“I don’t think that’s a good thing to be celebrating … but I might make my own holiday with my family.” Weber’s views echo a growing sentiment against the celebration of Thanksgiving. For many indigenous people, Thanksgiving is seen as a day of mourning for the genocide of Native American people and the theft of their land. The debate around the ethics of celebrating Thanksgiving remains prevalent in the US.