While some students are able to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday, others stay at UC Irvine and celebrate this traditional American holiday at their “home away from home.”
This Thanksgiving, Nov. 28th, Student Affairs hosted their annual Thanksgiving lunch from 12 to 3 p.m. in Pippin Commons.
This annual tradition began in 2009, with a desire from Student Affairs to avail the Thanksgiving experience to students who did not have homes to go to or were logistically unable to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.
Originally hosted in Palo Verde, attendance was around 130 guests. This year the lunch was hosted in Pippin Commons and the event was packed to the rim with a total of 300 guests. Through email, Hospitality & Dining reached out to undergraduate, graduate and international students alike to try and publicize the event.
“When we started, we started out in a small room and [the Thanksgiving event] grew to the point where we wanted to have it in a kitchen facility where we can keep knocking food out Jack McManus, Director of Hospitality & Dining, said.
Pippin Commons was transformed for the lunch, with fall-inspired decorations such as pumpkin centerpieces and orange tablecloths. On preparations for such a large group Jack McManus said, “[The Hospitality & Dining staff] actually started working on it yesterday. We had a crew come in last night from Catering to do all the linens, and a lot of them volunteered outside hours. It’s kind of like our fun thing to do, it’s our give back.”
With the line almost out the door of Pippin, guests lined up for the lunch buffet served by staff from Hospitality & Dining, along with Chancellor Michael V. Drake and Vice Chancellor Thomas A. Parham. The lunch featured traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, among other dishes on the main line. An assortment of bread, salad and dessert, accompanied by the background noise of the football game, completed the traditional American Thanksgiving experience.
The event caters to all students who would like a place to spend Thanksgiving in Irvine. While many were from the Bay Area, a majority of attendees were international students. While serving, Vice Chancellor Parham asked guests, “Where do you call home?” and received answers ranging from Germany, Iran and Italy to India, China and Taiwan.
“Each year [the Thanksgiving event] has gotten larger with more and more students in our community seeing this as a great option to celebrate this holiday, particularly as we have more international students on campus,” Chancellor Drake said. “That was a cohort that was relatively small for us in 2009 and we see it has escalated to be a predominant part of the group today.”
For many international students, such as Andrea Melossi from Italy and his friends Victoria Buendia and Balta Infante from Spain, this was their first Thanksgiving experience.
Melossi commented, “We went to a Thanksgiving party with a family a few days ago, so we saw the tradition of Thanksgiving and they explained the story behind Thanksgiving.”
Another Thanksgiving program offered for international students this year is “Take an Anteater Home for the Holidays” which invites international students to the homes of local families for the holidays.
These holiday events try and incorporate the holistic values of the university, which often times extend beyond the classroom.
“It also ties on very well to our campus values’ system and let them [students] know that while we want to support their academic endeavors, we want them to have a marvelous experience in a
ll aspects of academic life and one of those is being able to support our holiday traditions and invite others who are not familiar with those to be a part of that,” Vice Chancellor Parham said.
The event achieved exactly that, with students commenting on their positive experience at the lunch, from the great food to the strong sense of community, the “Anteater Spirit” was evident at this Thanksgiving lunch.