Students spend Thanksgiving far from home


Molly O’Connor/Winonan

‘Tis the season to go up a pants size and add an extra notch to the belt, for Thanksgiving has come around once again.

The holiday often brings to mind the image of a giant turkey, roasted to perfection, sitting in the center of a dining table, surrounded by various yet equally important side dishes.

Sometimes, these Thanksgiving fantasies conclude with very different realities for Winona State University students.

For some students, the trips home do not always work out. Travel time, bus or train delays or even the difficulty of finding a ride home in the first place can deter a student from departing for the holiday.

Jonathan Lee of Two Rivers, Wis., is one of those students who will not be retuning home. This is due to his commute of over five hours. Instead, Lee has made plans of his own.

“I’ll actually be celebrating it here in Winona in my apartment with a roommate,” Lee said.

If Lee wasn’t staying in Winona, he would be celebrating Thanksgiving with his family. The Lee family’s Hmong heritage plays a part in the festivities.

“With the Hmong culture, it’s heavily influenced by whatever the main culture is. So since we’re in America, that’s why we eat turkey, but we also incorporate some of our own dishes,” Lee said. “At the same time, it’s around Hmong New Year time, so that’s sort of how we incorporate Hmong food and stereotypical Thanksgiving food.”

Lee doesn’t participate in the American tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving.

“I’m not a football guy,” he said. “I couldn’t care less who wins. I don’t even know who’s playing.”

He also doesn’t get involved in the typical Thanksgiving kitchen activities.

“I don’t cook,” he said. “In the Hmong culture, it’s a patriarchal system. The men don’t really do anything and the women are the ones in the kitchen.”

Hannah Frawley will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Winona as well because of her work schedule. If she hadn’t been scheduled to work, Frawley would have headed back to her hometown Saint Paul.

“I would celebrate at home with my family and family friends,” Frawley said. “It is going to be a smaller Thanksgiving at our house this year. I will miss eating the good food that my family makes, especially the scalloped potatoes.”

Some of her favorite dishes, she said, are potatoes, asparagus and creamed corn.

Although Frawley will miss being at home, she plans on making her Thanksgiving in Winona special. She has brainstormed ideas for what she can make to have a sufficiently traditional dinner.

“I am thinking about making some pie or baked goods and maybe some potatoes and some Seitan – fake meat – but other than that I don’t know of my plans yet,” she said.

No matter the destination for Thanksgiving, students like Frawley and Lee continue to be thankful, even if the season finds them away from home.

“I’m thankful for an education,” Lee said. “It’s so surreal. That’s really something because, coming from a low-income family, I’m so grateful and thankful to be here.”

Contact Molly at [email protected]