Thanksgiving in the Village

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I take great offense to those who skip right over it and plow through with early starts to Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, I have a file of 100 Christmas movies waiting for me on November 24th (the rightful start to Christmas festivities.

This was an important rule in my household growing up. We always celebrated Thanksgiving at home, with certain traditions repeated every year, and we decorated for Christmas after spending the morning shopping on Black Friday.

So, how does one celebrate their favorite holiday a world away from home in a country that has what seems like a million holidays, but doesn’t celebrate your favorite?

Seems like a great culture-sharing opportunity to me! Last year, I was still in training during thanksgiving, so I celebrated with my cluster and link. It was a great evening of good food, music and traditions, it made being so far from home a tiny bit easier. If you want to read about that, check it out here. Later that evening, I quietly facetimed my family, quietly because I was still living with my host family and it was 1:00 in the morning here when I called. They set up an ipad stacked on books at face level, so I could be included in the dinner conversations. I even took part in a “mannequin challenge,” but I kept getting yelled at for blinking, there was a delay. (Remember when the mannequin challenge was a thing, click this link to see my cluster’s English club doing their own).

This year, I get to share my favorite holiday with my incredible students. We are doing not one, but two weeks of thanksgiving-themed English clubs.

I started with my younger ones. I have a club with 4th-7th form. It’s mostly 5th and 6th graders usually. I don’t teach both 7th form classes and I only teach a few of the 4th graders. I also didn’t teach 3rd grade last year, so a lot of these kids have no interaction with me.

This week, one of the class teacher brought nearly half her class in right before I was about to start! They settled down and I ended up having one of my largest English clubs at site. I had a presentation about thanksgiving.

We talked about the foods that we eat and they loved yelling out the vocabulary, we talked about American football and we talked about the Macy’s day parade. I found a video on Youtube that had a short version of last year’s parade, it was pretty much mostly the floats. They LOVED yelling out each character they recognized. Who knew Angry Birds and Hello Kitty transcended borders so well?

After the presentation, they traced their hands, cut them out and wrote what they were thankful for on the cut-out hand. When I got home, I arranged the hands on a poster to look like fall leaves on a tree and it is SO CUTE.

The next day, I had English club for my older kids. I had a more advanced presentation for them where we talked about where Thanksgiving really comes from and discussed how it’s celebrated today. I had them take the information they learned and make a poster in English and Ukrainian to hang downstairs for everyone to see.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was a baking day for me, I made desserts for my students to try at out Thanksgiving party. I don’t have access to the same ingredients here, so I made do with apple crisp, pumpkin bread and sweet potato bars with marshmallows on top, as well as my mom’s famous cider.

On Thursday, I had hyped up this as much as I could, precariously transported 5 pans of food to school (Chezara drove me to school, so that was a BIG help), and had prepared coloring pages and activity sheets.

After school, I set up the classroom we’d be in and there were a ton of kids. It was my biggest club yet. We talked about Thanksgiving again, colored, watched football and had time for a special guest. My dad woke up at 5:30 in the morning to call in to our club. Even though we had some technical difficulties, it was a hit. My students loved getting to meet him and I think he liked getting to chat with them too. They’re super excited to meet my family when they come to visit this summer.

The kids said goodbye, I cleaned up and headed home. I made my own Thanksgiving dinner, less traditional than normal, but I did eat more than I should as usual. I woke up at 1:00 in the morning to call in to Thanksgiving dinner and got to chat with my family. I am thankful for technology that allows me to be included in these moments.

Now, it’s time for Christmas, which in this country is extra. How extra? Well, there are two Christmases. I’ll keep you updated throughout the festivities.

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