Leaders at Lindenwood University-Belleville made sure international students, half a world away from family and friends and unfamiliar with a purely American holiday, didn’t get left out of Thanksgiving festivities.
Lindenwood Belleville President Brett Barger and the school’s Student Life & Leadership organization hosted a group of about 30 students from other countries Thursday at the Belleville farmhouse of Linda Weisenstein. There, they learned about the origins of Thanksgiving before dining on a feast of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and other fixings.
“We want to share our American traditions and show our hospitality to the members of our Lindenwood Belleville family who are here from other countries,” said Barger explained about the inspiration for the gathering. “If they can’t be home with their families over the short holiday break, we want them to be able to spend some time with their Lindenwood family.”
Viola Elbetti, 22, of Florence, Italy, is one of the students who was excited to attend the special get together.
“I am Italian, so I do not celebrate Thanksgiving back home,” said Elbetti, a junior who is majoring in advertising. “However, being part of a new country also means experiencing different cultures. I am happy Lindenwood Belleville is giving international students the opportunity to know more about this festivity and experience it together as a family.”
Corey Ellzey, Student Life & Leadership director, said the Thanksgiving gathering is about sharing in more ways than one. He has hosted a smaller group of international students for Thanksgivings past, but this is the first time a large group has been organized for the holiday dinner.
“The importance of having such an event is twofold,” said Ellzey. “One, we have the opportunity to introduce our international population to a very important part of United States history. Secondly, with Thanksgiving being a family holiday, we reinforce for our students that they are a part of a family here at Lindenwood University-Belleville.”
Thanksgiving’s roots can be traced to 1621, when pilgrims, according to legend, held an autumn feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. While Thanksgiving was less formally observed for more than two centuries, it was officially made a national holiday to be held on the fourth Thursday in November in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.