The Spirit of Thanksgiving

This year again, like the previous, my family met with my aunts and cousins in my mother’s brother’s family in Brooklyn to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is actually a fairly new tradition. Sometime a few years ago it was just suddenly decided that we would all gather to have a Thanksgiving dinner. I really enjoyed seeing my cousins and their parents the previous two years, so I was excited this year despite all the homework.

I’m not a morning person so I was expecting to meet this year sometime around 5PM on November 22nd. When my mother came home on the 21st telling me to wake up at 11AM tomorrow to be at my cousin’s home by 12PM, I almost didn’t want to go. But since we only meet a few times a year, and this was a special occasion, I pushed that thought aside. When I looked at my younger brother’s displeased expression, I knew I had to push him in order to go … And I did, literally.

The next morning, he slept soundly even with the alarm ringing and my shouting. As a last resort, I pulled his blanket and threw it back at him to wake up him. When we finally arrived, we were late but no one seemed to mind. My mother’s sister’s family (with my cousin’s child who was a bit over a year old) was already here. The moment I stepped in, however, I couldn’t resist but to ask everyone, “Why are we meeting so early? Isn’t the turkey dinner at night?” To my pleasant surprise, my cousin answered, “We’re having hotpot first that’s why. Let’s start moving the table.”

I had no objections to hotpot but on Thanksgiving? It was definitely not traditional or familiar to many cultures. Everyone seemed to like a family hotpot, so why not? After setting up the table and hotpot, my cousins’ parent told us to go buy some drinks at a supermarket—quickly—before it closed in an hour (it was closing early, by 2PM for Thanksgiving). The large store was almost empty except for a few customers. I guessed most of the people were celebrating Thanksgiving with families and had done their shopping beforehand. Although the air was a little chilly, its calming nature eased my anxiety about the somewhat chaotic apartment that I was about to reenter.

Once my cousin and I entered, I noticed that my mother and my aunt had arrived – which meant it was time to eat! Since it was hotpot, my cousins bought a lot of food and vegetables to boil. In addition to a soup base package, my cousins prepared hot sauce, soy sauce, and cut scallions dipped in shrimp and soy sauce for flavoring. As for the food, there were fish balls, beef balls, shrimp balls, fried tofu (I think these were the best), sliced beef, sliced lamb, enoki mushrooms, shrimp, and assorted vegetables. They bought so much that by the time the turkey was almost ready, everyone was too full to eat anymore. Turkey with mashed potato, which was supposed to be the main dish, became the side dish.

Turkey might have been a symbol of Thanksgiving. However, it was originally meant to express gratitude and celebration. In time, it has grown to mean family reunion. And so, even though a hotpot Thanksgiving was non-traditional, it was definitely in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Hotpot – Photo credits to

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6 Responses to The Spirit of Thanksgiving

  1. Sifan Shen says:

    Last year’s Thanksgiving, I also had hotpot with my family. My mom prefers chicken than turkey, so she likes hotpot better. I can relate to your story on how turkey became a side dish. At dinner table, Asian family often pressures teens to eat more even though they are already full. Furthermore, it’s considered disrespectful to say “No” to an older relative. As a result, I always end up gaining more weight on Thanksgiving. :(

  2. Professor Bernstein says:

    Your hot pot story is wonderful!

  3. Yeuk San Shen says:

    I can definitely relate to your story. This year, I also had a mixed-culture Thanksgiving dinner– it was great, but it wasn’t traditional. I think nowadays, having dinner with families and friends become more important than having the exact “traditional” dinner with turkey and other dishes. After all, it is a time for family union.

  4. nastassiashcherbatsevich says:

    Your story was full of life and very entertaining. I liked the idea that you were trying to explain: a traditional holiday like Thanksgiving can evolve to fit the people that celebrate it. At the core, having a family get-together was the most important part and the food followed. Its fascinating, though, to see just how differently the various cultures in the United States dine during a holiday that mostly everyone celebrates.

  5. Nancy Zhu says:

    Hot pot!! It’s such a nice Chinese culture.To relate, my family celebrates holidays with hot pot too. This post makes me want to have some right now!

  6. Joseph Maugeri says:

    My thanksgiving this year was pretty lame. I barely ate anything as I really didn’t have plans to go anywhere. I just whipped up a turkey breast, some mashed potatoes, and a little corn. It’s amazing to think how much turkey has been affiliated with thanksgiving though.

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