An American Holiday in China

In Nanjing I partook of a great Thanksgiving feast, but it was the next week that I really celebrated and caught the spirit of Thanksgiving. All week my lessons were about Thanksgiving, teaching my students about the history and customs associated with the holiday. We discussed the Pilgrims and Indians, football, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and of course turkey.

After the talk of celebrating though, we got into the meat of the holiday – giving thanks. We talked about gratitude and what they are grateful for. As it’s a tradition in many American homes to share what you’re thankful for on Thanksgiving, that’s what we did giving everyone the opportunity to speak and share something they are grateful for. However, after something was said nobody else could say it unless they had a very specific example.

My students were full of surprises as we discussed what we are grateful for giving answers that I don’t think I would ever hear in an American university class. For example, in each class people were grateful for their critics and enemies because they help them know how to better themselves and improve. It was very touching to see what my students are sincerely thankful for even though most did not share something of sincerity, some were very heartfelt.

One of my students was brought to tears as she shared specific reasons of why she is grateful for her parents. She was reminded how much she misses them and got homesick. When she finished her classmates applauded her and cheered her on.

Another interesting thing many of them are grateful for is the College Entrance Examination. Basically, it’s the test that determines a Chinese student’s future. You would never hear a student in America give thanks for the ACT or SAT and this test has so much more riding on it. After all, they spend their final year of high school studying almost 24/7 to take the test.

Then on the fourth Thursday of November, just like clockwork, it was Thanksgiving. Not only was I talking about it in class but then I hosted a wonderful dinner at my apartment with all but one of the foreign teachers here and a few others. The only one not here was in Russia at the time. There were four Americans, one Japanese, one French, two Argentinians, one Ukrainian, and one Chinese.

This was one of my most memorable Thanksgiving dinners. Not just because of the nontraditional fare (I mean when was the last Thanksgiving you had with sushi?) but because of the feeling and atmosphere. It was a truly enjoyable evening. This ranks with my top two Thanksgivings ever, neither of which was in America.

Of course the day after Thanksgiving, I began putting up Christmas decorations and playing Christmas music. Now I’m in the full holiday swing. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, except for the sudden drop in temperature – almost 30 degrees over night.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are in the Holiday spirit. Just remember the real reason for the season and it will be a happy one. TTFN. Remember, even in the everyday things, “Adventure is out there!”

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