BY KADY HAMMER AND ANNA VASUDEVAN, SAIS OBSERVER
BOLOGNA, Italy — As mentioned at the Thanksgiving dinner held Friday, Nov. 27 at SAIS Europe by honorary speaker Lee Sutton, Thanksgiving is all about tradition. According to Sutton, the social meaning of Thanksgiving is “about being thankful for friends and family, and being able to share good food, laughter and fun.” While the historical saga of the first Thanksgiving is remembered each year, the true holiday spirit is often embodied in the tradition of recreating passed-down recipes and celebrating with our loved ones.
For many at SAIS Europe, Thanksgiving 2015 broke tradition in several respects. Some SAISers had never celebrated Thanksgiving away from home. Recreating traditional Thanksgiving dishes proved difficult for volunteers as ingredients for favorite American dishes were hard to find in Bologna. And celebrating Thanksgiving on a Friday instead of Thursday was the most obvious break from the norm.
The event planning started in early November as SGA member Elisa Bettelli spearheaded a team of SAISers to plan cooking, decorations, musical entertainment, and the following day’s game of American football at Giardini Margherita. Located in the SAIS Europe auditorium on Nov. 27th, more than 20 full tables of students, faculty and staff gathered to share the Thanksgiving meal. Dinner was potluck-style cooked by student volunteers with Thanksgiving staples including 15 turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and the always-popular apple pie. As each family celebrates Thanksgiving with different traditions, different dishes made appearances such as hummus and biryani, exemplifying the diversity of SAIS students from all around the globe and allowing students to share their favorite foods.
The evening began with speeches by Lee Sutton and Director Plummer, referencing the origins of Thanksgiving and the importance of spending this holiday with loved ones. In the background, the organizational committee displayed a slideshow of pictures taken throughout the semester of various student-organized activities such as hiking in the Dolomites of Northern Italy, the SAIS Halloween party, and other trips to nearby vista points like San Marino, Rimini, Florence and Venice.
When asked to describe his Thanksgiving traditions and impressions of the 2015 SAIS Thanksgiving, Gabriel Williams, a SAIS Europe student volunteer in charge of organizing the food at the event, said, “This will be the fourth year in a row I’ve spent [Thanksgiving] away from home, so for me Thanksgiving has become a time to be thankful for the great friends I’ve made in the past year, to remember the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. Most of all, it’s a time when I think about how fortunate I am to have had people support me and help me get to where I am today. Overall, I think that the event was complete success. I was beyond impressed with the students, staff, and faculty who all pitched in to make the night great. I think we have a really tight-knit community and it definitely came through on Friday night.”
After the turkey and pies were finished, SAISers shifted from the auditorium to Giulio’s Bar where the Music Club held a live performance, playing the classics, including some of the best hits by The Strokes and The Killers. The SAIS Europe band featured Pelayo González Escalada Mena on the bass guitar, Andrea Arricale on the electric guitar – both of whom switched between lead vocals — and Ali Can Uzun on the drums. Adding to the Thanksgiving surprises was an impromptu performance by SAIS Europe Director Michael Plummer on the drums. The music played, professors and other faculty danced, and students sung along. After the band finished their set, the partying continued back in the auditorium where students cleared the dinner tables to make room for dancing with students DJing from the in-room computer.