How Payton Students Celebrate Thanksgiving

By Nina Escobar and Ronan Solomon


We all have an image of the typical American Thanksgiving in our minds: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and that sweet potato/marshmallow thing among many other dishes. People travel, dress up fancy, and sit around a table to eat together. 

With a lot of people coming from different backgrounds here at Payton, we wondered: How else do people celebrate? Are there different traditions they have? What about the food? We interviewed several people to find out more about the way they celebrate. Here’s what they said:

Paw Print: With what cultures do you identify, and how would you describe your culture when it comes to Thanksgiving?

  • “I’m African American and usually, with Holidays like Thanksgiving, the tradition is to get together and eat, like a potluck, with the big family: all of your cousins, aunties, and uncles.” – Trevor Fields ‘21
  • “I’m Mexican-American. [Thanksgiving] is very much a family thing, my whole family gets together, even distant family.” -Stephany Arroyo ‘21
  • “I identify with the Mexican culture and American culture. In my household, Thanksgiving is a time where we get together with my family from different states. We usually go out of state and it’s just a lot of food.” -Carlos Aguilar ‘22
  • “I identify with the Mexican culture. At least in my family, Thanksgiving is viewed as a religious holiday where everyone delivers a short prayer of gratitude before the meal.” -Mariana Ocón ‘21
  • “I’d say my culture when it comes to Thanksgiving is all American considering we do football and the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, etc.” -Christopher Zrazik ‘21
  • “In terms of Thanksgiving, I would say my family is a combination of Indian and American culture as the food tends to be a combination of classic Indian and American dishes, and as for activities my family and I tend to do classic American activities such as football but also watch Indian shows/movies.” -Taha Charolia ‘21
  • “I would say that my Thanksgiving culture is very American. We have many of the classic American dishes, and we eat food and watch football with our entire family.” -Ryan Thomas ‘21
  • “My mom and I are Buddhist, but the rest of my family is Catholic, so we tend to celebrate Thanksgiving with dinner and prayer to be respectful towards them.” -Bea Hawkins ‘21
  • “I am Taina (Puerto Rican). We are very community-based where each part of our family brings part of the meal to whichever house we choose for that year.” -Ari Perez ‘20
  • “I don’t have any specific culture that influences the way I celebrate Thanksgiving, mainly because my family is spread across the country, so the traditions we embrace aren’t very applicable to this particular holiday.” -Hope Hague ‘21

Paw Print: How do you traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving?

  • “It usually starts about 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving. Me and my mom and my sister, we take a lot of time to cook whatever we’re supposed to be bringing to the potluck. Sometimes it’s mashed potatoes, casserole, the turkey. We’ll all go over one of my aunties’ house and everyone will be there and basically be together.” -Trevor Fields ‘21
  • “Usually, we go to Texas because we’ve been doing that for the past five or six years…we have our Thanksgiving – like all the regular Thanksgiving traditions over there.” -Stephany Arroyo ‘21
  • “Growing up, it was the entire family eating at my aunt’s house but now that it’s more of people celebrating with just their family, it’s only my parents and my brothers and their families at my parents’ house. Everyone brings a dish and it’s a huge dinner.” -Mariana Ocón ‘21
  • “I start the day with serving at my church’s ‘Feed the Hungry’ Thanksgiving meal which is fulfilling and humbling. Then comes some football and the family for a nice big dinner. It’s a full circle day that reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.” -Christopher Zrazik ‘21
  • “We typically start the day by gathering either at my house our my cousin’s (switches off every year), and we help prepare the meal for the day while also watching the annual Thanksgiving football game. We then go out to play some football and then eat our Thanksgiving meal. We then usually go out shopping for Black Friday.” -Taha Charolia ‘21
  • “Me and my extended family all get together and eat a big meal with turkey and stuffing and many other foods. We also watch football together as a family and all root for America’s true team, the Detroit Lions.” -Ryan Thomas ‘21
  • “My family and my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandma spend the entire afternoon and evening at one of our houses while we talk, cook, play games, and watch football.” -Bea Hawkins ‘21
  • “We usually choose one house of my grandparents’ children, and they host everyone. Each grandchild drafts a short prayer to protect and celebrate everything we’ve been thankful for that year. We then eat as a family and after dessert, we start to make final preparations for our big Christmas traditions.” -Ari Perez ‘20
  • “Because of the way we travel, we fake a Thanksgiving usually before the actual day with the whole shebang: football, turkey, lots of mashed potatoes, and some corny decorations.” -Hope Hague ‘21

Paw Print: Are there any ways you celebrate differently than what we see normally?

  • “We’ll have a big prayer and someone would list off the things that they are grateful for and seeing as how it’s a Christian black family, it’s pretty typical.” -Trevor Fields ‘21
  • “I’d say the only thing different is that we don’t eat turkey, we eat ham.” -Mariana Ocón ‘21
  • “Because my family is all from around Detroit, we are all big Lions fans. We always watch the Thanksgiving Day Lions game on TV together and wear our jerseys and lions gear under our fancy thanksgiving clothes.” -Ryan Thomas ‘21
  • “Something we do is extend our invite to family friends who may not have any family in town. It’s nice to have them join us and the rest of the family.” -Christopher Zrazik ‘21
  • “If there is a Hawks game during Thanksgiving we go all out with Hawks gear and watch the game together as a family but we also play a traditional Indian board game which is very intense and helps bring our family together.” -Taha Charolia ‘21
  • “My birthday and two of my cousin’s birthdays are within five days of each other in December, so we celebrate all three of our birthdays on Thanksgiving as well.” -Bea Hawkins ‘21
  • “Usually we travel for Thanksgiving, so the actual Thanksgiving day is spent at the airport (because the prices are cheap). Often times we get Chinese food at O’Hare.” -Hope Hague ‘21

Paw Print: What kinds of foods does your family make and eat?

  • “Soul food – green beans, collard greens, cornbread, turkey, dressing, yams, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, turkey obviously, macaroni, spaghetti.” -Trevor Fields ‘21
  • “We make Mexican stuff, like tamales, rice, beans, but we also make the turkey and mashed potatoes and corn and the ham, and all that.” -Stephany Arroyo ‘21
  • “They make Turkey, chicken, rice sometimes, they bring flan, cheesecake, regular cake, spaghetti, macaroni, just a lot of food.” -Carlos Aguilar ‘22
  • “For the most part, my family makes Latin food [like] chile rellenos, Arroz con gandules, any type of Mexican rice, tamales, with mashed potatoes and different types of pasta.” -Mariana Ocón ‘21
  • “We do turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and maple pecan pie. There might be some cheesecake….” -Christopher Zrazik ‘21
  • “Pumpkin/Apple Pie, Naan & Curry, Biryani (Indian Dish), Mashed Potatoes, Gravy” -Taha Charolia ‘21
  • “My family has many different kinds of food at our Thanksgiving. We have many of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and other foods like that. My family is big on desserts, so we always have a lot of those.” -Ryan Thomas ‘21
  • “We have arroz con gandules, pernil, turkey, ham, ensalada de papa, ensalada de codito, flan, tres leches cake, coquito, and that’s the basics.” -Ari Perez ‘20
  • “We make and eat pretty traditional Thanksgiving food, although we’ve stopped making turkey in the past few years because some of my family members are vegetarian and we all agree that turkey doesn’t taste particularly good in the first place. Most of my family really likes mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and stuffing.” -Bea Hawkins, ‘21
  • “Everything that is traditional, but my mom makes the best mashed potatoes in the world so we buy like ten pounds of potatoes so we can get leftovers for days after.” -Hope Hague ‘21

Paw Print: Do you ever travel for Thanksgiving?

  • “Yeah, these past two times, I stayed in Chicago, but usually we go out of state.” -Carlos Aguilar ‘22
  • “Yes, every year I go to Michigan to be with my family for Thanksgiving. Almost all of my extended family lives around Detroit or Ann Arbor, so we always head up to Michigan to spend the holiday weekend with my family.” -Ryan Thomas ‘21
  • “Nope, we stay local. A lot of my close family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – live in the Chicagoland area so it’s great to have a lot of them join us.” -Christopher Zrazik ‘21
  • “We travel sometimes, depending on the weather, we usually alternate which house the dinner is at every year but alongside that, we sometimes travel to our distant families’ homes in Texas and NY; usually we go to the suburbs or stay in Chicago.” -Taha Charolia ‘21
  • “My family always stays in Chicago, and at times, family from New York and Puerto Rico would come visit.” -Ari Perez ‘20
  • “The farthest we ever travel is to the suburb Oswego to have Thanksgiving at my cousin’s house. My family feels really grateful that we all live within an hour of each other, especially around the holidays.” -Bea Hawkins ‘21
  • “This year we won’t be, unfortunately, but oftentimes we try to visit some of our family or travel out of the country.” -Hope Hague ‘21

Happy holidays Grizzlies! Get some rest & relaxation-you definitely deserve it.

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