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The Thanksgiving Experience from the African Immigrants’ Perspective

by Rev. Joseph Kazadi on September 14, 2020

There is no custom of celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving in Africa, and most African immigrants have never experienced this tradition.

In 2013, the members of the Genesis Sunday School class of FUMC Hurst took the opportunity to introduce the African Immigrants to the holiday dinner by hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. It was a great opportunity to introduce them to American holiday traditions. It was an opportunity to minister to these newcomers here in our community, while sharing meal and time of fellowship.  In addition, it was an opportunity for members of the Genesis class to share their experience of faith with their new friends from the African continent.

On that day the fellowship hall was decorated with the appropriate colors. It was filled with laughter, joy, smile, and singing. The food was marvelous and hugs plentiful. While this Thanksgiving dinner may seem a small gesture, being invited to share the American tradition bears great meaning for African Immigrants in searching out their place in the American cultural framework. One of African Immigrants who attended this event describe his experience in the following ways.

“I did like very much that Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful for the friendship I have formed and the special persons I have met in this church to share my life with. I am very blessed. It was a “second welcome” to the United States. You felt that you belong to the community and have same tradition as American. I felt included. It was an intercultural exchange that can make a difference in our life as immigrants in this country. I was moved to learn that the Thanksgiving Day story was about how the American Indians and Pilgrims once celebrated the bounty of their harvest together. American traditions represent for us a part of America that is still unfamiliar.”

From what has been said above by my fellow African Immigrant, it occurred to me that you don’t have to only have your family and close friends to celebrate or to enjoy the Thanksgiving. You can enjoy this special holiday even if it is just you, your family and with strangers from far away.

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