Thanksgiving, what traditions does your host family have?

Thanksgiving is one the best holidays in the US. It falls on the 4th Thursday of every November and is celebrated by almost everyone in the country.

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Several countries have their own version of the holiday. Some even dispute exactly when the first Thanksgiving occurred. Most Americans follow it back to 1621, when the Pilgrims came to the US on the Mayflower. It wasn’t until 1789 did George Washington proclaim the first nation-wide Thanksgiving. Many historians believe it was George Washington that created the “Thursday” tradition as he set it for Thursday, November 26th, 1789. Abraham Lincoln (another great president), decided to follow the trend of Thursday and make Thanksgiving the last of each month. Congress made it an official holiday in 1941, establishing the 4th Thursday of November.

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The great part of Thanksgiving is not the history, but the fact every family seems to have their own traditions. Growing up, I would visit my grandparents along with all of my uncles and cousins. We would play a football game in the morning, followed by setting up for a 4:00 PM dinner. By 6:00 PM, dessert was on the table with some of the best homemade pies I ever tasted. After all the dishes were done, my family would head to the bowling alley for friendly competition.

My friend’s family does an Italian Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey and mash potatoes, they serve lasagna and chicken parmesan. After dinner, they have Italian cookies and finish the night with Yahtzee.

My college roommate was from Detroit. His family went to the annual football game every year. They had dinner at the stadium.

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My brother’s wife, her family had a late Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, they would go wait in line at Best Buy for “Black Friday” deals. Black Friday is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Many stores will offer great deals as people will wait in line for a 12:00 AM open.

When Thanksgiving comes, the important thing is to spend time with your host family. Learn about their traditions and how they celebrate it. You might meet some of your extended host family (cousins, uncles, aunts). This is a good chance to ask your aunts, uncles and even grandparents family history questions. Ask about how they grew up and where some the family traditions started.

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Either way, be sure to eat a lot of food, watch a football game and help clean up!

ISE Student Takes Community Service to a Whole New Level

Brazilian exchange student, Ana, came to the U.S. to experience a new culture and to refine her English language skills. She was placed with the Spencer family in Longmont, CO, and settled into her new life with relative ease.


“My host family is amazing,” Ana stated. “I have never had a brother before, so it’s great.”


Shortly after her arrival, Ana heard news that a major rain storm was coming. Thinking at first that the storm was no big deal, Ana went to bed like it was any other night. She never could have imagined what would happen next. When she awoke the next morning, her Twitter timeline was buzzing with messages describing wreckage and devastation from a flood. She quickly went to the TV and saw with her own eyes what was happening outside.


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“I was on a hill, so I wasn’t worried about my house. I did walk down to see the flooding. I was shocked to see the roads covered with water and the bridges destroyed.”


The floods had damaged over 20,000 homes and destroyed roads, bridges and business. The devastation was intense, but Ana didn’t do much for the next few days. School was cancelled, so she just spent time with a few friends. Soon, people that she knew began to be evacuated, and more and more people from Brazil contacted her to make sure she was ok. She assured them that everything was fine and that she was safe in her home.  After a few days, she decided that it was time to do something.


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On day three Ana woke up and decided to get to work. She had volunteered in Brazil in the past and she realized that her community needed her.


“I asked myself, ‘Why should I sit in my bedroom if I could be out doing something?’ I told my host mom that I wanted to help.”


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Ana’s host mother called a friend that was involved in the community. Her friend directed Ana to the mall where people could sign up to volunteer. Ana jumped in immediately. That day Ana was assigned to take supply orders for FEMA. She had never heard of FEMA before; there was nothing like it in Brazil. She wound up working over four hours that first day.


“After the first day, I thought I was really helping people. It made me want to go back to help again.”


On the second day, Ana was assigned to work at the warehouse. Her responsibilities were to gather supplies and help people get specific items in the “market”. She assisted families in deciding what they would need to get by for the upcoming week. In everything she did she felt a sense of accomplishment. It felt good to help. At one point, she met a man that didn’t want anything. He was living in his car because his house was destroyed. Even though he had lost everything, he didn’t want to take much from the people who needed it more than he.


“It made me feel so grateful about the everything I have and the host family I live with. People are so nice in this country. It was amazing to see someone left with nothing, but yet still was thinking of his fellow community.”


Ana went back for a third day, enjoying the volunteer work and the help that she was able to offer to people. She is planning on joining a club or even starting one that would focus on relief for those who have lost their homes. Things are beginning to get to normal in Longmont, but there is still a lot of work to be done.


“After this experience, it taught me to be thankful for what you have. Sometime you don’t even notice your small things might be big things to other people.”