Hyde Park for the Holiday

Students share how old traditions made campus feel like a new home this Thanksgiving.
[Thanksgiving] really brings home the message that their house can be a home and a family

As fall quarter ends, the holiday season begins and many students, on and off-campus, use the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to come together before heading back home for winter break.

For third-year Bryn Pernot, the house president of Dodd-Mead, Thanksgiving was the kick-off for this year’s holiday season and a way to solidify the closeness of the house community.

“It really brings home the message that their house can be a home and a family,” she said. She added that for many first-years and international students, this togetherness is especially important.

At Dodd-Mead, and in many houses across campus, students prep in the kitchen together. According to Pernot, the Dodd-Mead residents gathered in their Resident Heads’ apartment and cooked together all day before the big meal. The meal brought together current and former residents, including the house’s previous Resident Heads, around one table.

“It was the first time in a really long time I had a more traditional Thanksgiving,” said Pernot. “I really enjoyed it. I made the yams this year and they turned out great.”

The rest of the weekend, she explained, was dedicated to relaxing and enjoying the company of the residents who had remained over the break. “We all watched movies together that evening,” she said. “All in all, it’s that big push before finals week and for many, it was a lot more relaxing than going home.“

Over Thanksgiving break, Dodd-Mead residents pick up their presents for the annual gift exchange—a yearly tradition for the house's residents.

Across the midway in Max Palevsky, Flint House hosts an early meal so that all residents can participate. The "Flintsgiving" event invites residents to contribute a dish for the yearly potluck.

“The house provides the turkeys and bread, everything else is up to the residents,” Flint House RA Laura McFadden said. “This year someone even made pumpkin gnocchi!”

The result, she said, is a meal showcasing residents’ culinary talents that everyone can enjoy.

According to McFadden, eating together is one of the best ways for students to connect during the holidays. “A lot of the upperclassmen really interact with the first years on a large scale for the first time,” said McFadden. “It gives the house an opportunity to come together and just eat.”

For UChicago students living off-campus, Thanksgiving brings together roommates to celebrate the holiday away from home.

Fourth-year Jonathan Lai said he and his friends host a weekly Sunday dinner to keep in touch with friends.

“It was a really nice way for those of us who had moved into apartments to keep in touch with people in the dorms and to all get together in one place. When Thanksgiving rolled around, it seemed only natural to do the same thing, on a grander scale,” he said.

Last year, Lai and his friends piled into a rented car to visit Costco on Thanksgiving morning and buy the supplies for the meal. But when they realized the superstore was closed, they started to get worried that they wouldn’t have their traditional Thanksgiving after all.

“Luckily, we found a small, Hispanic specialty food store that was still open that morning,” said Lai. “We bought our turkey and it worked out really well.”

But this year, Lai said that their traditional Thanksgiving meal was cut short for another big holiday tradition—Black Friday shopping.

“Since my friends are from all over the country—and world—a lot of us hadn't experienced Black Friday in a big city, so we decided to check out the scene in Chicago. A lot of stores opened early, so we didn't have to stay out all night or wake up early in the morning, like people did in the past,” Lai said.

According to Lai, both the size of the Black Friday crowds and his Thanksgiving meals in Hyde Park exceeded expectations.

Tagged: campus traditions, Thanksgiving, cooking, Housing