Each year, Dr. Clyde Bentley and his family host a Thanksgiving celebration for Mizzou’s international students. MissouriGlobal spoke with Dr. Bentley about the tradition and the inspiration behind hosting this hallmark American holiday. Dr. Bentley is an associate professor in print and digital news at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Dr. Bentley and his family have hosted Thanksgiving for international Mizzou students since 2003. He was inspired to host Thanksgiving due to his own experiences while traveling, “I often wished I could see the inside of someone’s house. When we travel, we see hotels, businesses and tourist spots. We don’t see how people live. I also had international students who I knew would be alone for the holiday.”
For his annual Thanksgiving feast, Dr. Bentley welcomes several repeat guests, but says most who attend have never celebrated Thanksgiving, “They are always amazed at the turkey and often puzzled by pumpkin pie (it’s just a vegetable in Asia- sort of like us eating green pea pie). They always take lots of photos … and get into some great conversations. Dr. Bentley keeps an international visitors book to document guests and the good times they shared. He has everyone draw a map of their home, write a note about their experience and he attaches their photo.
Most countries celebrate their harvest festivals the way Americans celebrate Thanksgiving – families coming together to give thanks. “Part of our tradition is having people tell us about the festivals in their countries. Sometimes they bring moon cakes, baklava, or traditional candy.”
“I start the dinner telling about how our first settlers nearly died in the new world, but with tips from neighboring Indians, they learned to grow enough food to prepare for the next winter. They gave thanks for that. I think of our dinner much like that first feast. We share our bounty with those from other cultures in gratitude for the richness we add to each other’s lives.”