There Can Be a Place Like Home For the Holidays: Making Holiday Traditions Away From Home

By Evana Brenelus

During the fall semester, Thanksgiving break is one of the first times many college students are given time to go back home and spend time with their families. For two years in a row, I did not go home and celebrated it with different people around the Tampa area instead.

Last year, I celebrated Thanksgiving with a family friend who shares the same Haitian culture as me. Even though I was not with my family, I felt safe and at home. I enjoyed Haitian rice, something other cultures may not consider a Thanksgiving dish, and many other cultural foods.

This year, I chose not to go home for the break as well. I had no idea what I would be doing this time around and was prepared to be alone. One of my sisters, from my sorority, invited me over because she knew I had no intentions of going home and I was excited. This would be my first time celebrating a major holiday with my new family.

Although my sister is also half Haitian, we planned an American Thanksgiving. Being away from home can give you the opportunity to choose foods that you enjoy outside of your family’s typical options, allowing  you to try something new.

I let my mom know my Thanksgiving plans and she asked what Haitian meal I wanted her to send to me. Of course, I had to go with a traditional meal: fried pork, fried plantains, and hot coleslaw. I brought some over to my sister’s and her aunt fell in love with the food, especially the hot coleslaw that she so badly wanted the recipe for. In moments like these, you can introduce pieces of your culture to someone else while also learning about theirs because it can be an exciting experience for everyone involved.

 Spending a holiday with new friends/family that you make in college can help you feel less alone in a foreign environment. You can also explore the area and find new places to spend your time while creating memories that will last a lifetime. When I met  my sister’s aunt in person for the first time it was lovely. She was hilarious and made me feel welcome the moment I stepped into the house.

Although this Thanksgiving was very different from any other, I had a great time. The Thanksgiving holiday  itself is not important to me, especially because of its racist history between European settlers and Native Americans. However, making new memories is something that does hold importance to me. Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to something greater, so not going home for holidays is not always as sad as it may seem- especially if you are still surrounded by those who care about you. 

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