Student Union writer Gwen Mugodi recently traveled to the US state of Maine for Thanksgiving, which took place on November 27. In this post, she talks about the experience of learning about the US from our holidays, traditions, and food – and seeing snow for the first time!
Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the United States. There is of course the historical importance (controversial as it might be). It is said that in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the US colonies. But this celebration has a darker side that’s often overlooked: the contact between the colonists and Native Americans that led to their meal led to the decimation of millions of Native peoples. But nevertheless, this holiday is still celebrated today with the classic combination of food, family and American football.
As a newcomer to almost all things American, I must say Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday so far. The food is spectacular and plentiful. The company is merry. I had my first taste of Thanksgiving this year with a friend from my Middle Eastern Studies Class, a resident of Maine who managed to convince two of us poor Brown University freshmen living far away from home that this holiday was better spent in his home state. For those who are not familiar with this beautiful state, it is in the north-east New England region. It is undoubtedly one of the most naturally beautiful places I have seen in my life.
Maine also happens to be one of the most freezing colder places in the US. It welcomed me with snowfall on Wednesday morning, the first I have ever experienced in my life. No one had warned me that snow falling would be such a brutal experience. I walked out of the house with nothing but tennis shoes, and when I walked back in only about 45 minutes later, my feet were an almost numb solid, with some of my toes actually physically stuck together. On the second day, I was more prepared (so I thought): I brought out my snow boots and went for my first sledding experience.
That went well enough. At the end of it, all my body parts were functional and maintained some sense of feeling in them. We did, however, decide to go to the water (the house is about two blocks away from the waterfront). I got so excited at the seeing water in a form other than snow that I put my feet in the water and got my feet wet. Now I not only had no boots, but also a bad case of sneezing from the cold that had now permeated my bones (and, it felt, quite possibly my soul).
Sitting down to a good, home-cooked meal after months of often terrible dining hall food at college was enough to distract me from my weather troubles. The fact that I was seated nearby the wood stove definitely helped (my hosts had heard of my non affinity to cold and had graciously placed me in the right spot).
Meeting different people and being allowed to share in family/friends experiences is definitely one of the better ways to get to know the culture of a people. For example, I know that if you live in Maine, you barely need a refrigerator – you can just pop your beverages in the snow and you’re good to go. I also learned that you should never waste an opportunity for a good pun.
I am really thankful to my amazing friend and his wonderful family for this beautiful experience – snow, sneezes, and all.