Special Thanksgiving Tea Time

Written by Haojun Song, Global Leader and Student Assistant at ISSS. Song is the friendly face you’ll see at our Thursday Tea Times. Each week, Song creates a welcoming space for all students to come together. Join him at our next Thursday Tea Time!

Thursday Tea Time is a weekly event that happens every Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (PT). The event is primarily for students regardless of where they are from, and it’s a great opportunity to meet other students from all over the world.

Global Leaders Yuki & Song prepare for Tea Time

Tea Time gives everyone a chance to make new friends, talk about things they have recently experienced, and share about things that make them happy or frustrates them. We usually have a set theme for each meeting, and it’s usually related to exchanging cultural perspectives or topics on daily life. We hope Tea Time will create bonds that form lifelong friendships. 

For this Thursday (Nov 26th), We have prepared a special Thanksgiving Thursday Tea Time. Even though we may not be able to share a Thanksgiving meal together this year, we can still gather at our virtual Tea Time and come together as a community. Our November 26th Tea Time takes on a special Thanksgiving theme, where we’ll share about our experiences, play games, and give thanks together. Join the Thanksgiving Tea Time through the link here: https://tinyurl.com/TTTThanksgiving

Moreover, Thursday Tea Time will continue during winter break! Our purpose for these weekly Thursday gatherings over the break is to connect people and make sure everyone is doing okay while there are no classes in session. The themes for the winter session Thursday Tea Times are still to be determined, but feel free to join our conversation and make more friends.

Thanksgiving Traditions from ISSS

ISSS team members share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions with you.

Lena Meadows, SEVIS Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Being able to spend time with family and eat great food.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? On Thanksgiving we watch football and play board games.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? Through these tough times, being able to be with family.

Suzanne Pendergrass, Assistant Director of International Student Services

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Spending time and sharing a meal with family and friends.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Spending time with the people you love.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? Family, friends and health.

Kenneth Ing, SEVIS Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Pumpkin flavors everywhere!
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Making chocolate-chip oatmeal muffins to eat Thanksgiving morning.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? My health

Khim Lok, Office Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? I love the gathering of families and friends during this holiday. It’s the beginning of two major celebrations (Thanksgiving & Christmas) and I get really excited about the festivities. One of my favorite things to do is to set the menu, which is typically not turkey. Instead we have a variety of food, potluck style.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? The day after Thanksgiving my family goes out and get our Christmas tree. It’s a tradition we’ve done since the kids were little. Afterward we start playing Christmas music and decorate the house and trees (we usually have 3-4 Christmas trees around the house).
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? I’m thankful for my family; for good health; for my parents; for my siblings; and for my career at SJSU.

Keri Toma, International Programs Manager

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? I love gathering around the table with family and friends, sharing a wonderful meal, and having the house smell so good from all the delicious foods being cooked.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on tv while baking pumpkin pies the morning of Thanksgiving. I also enjoy watching football games throughout the day, but my favorite part is when family and friends come together. Unfortunately, this year will be a quiet Thanksgiving, but hopefully next year will be back to normal.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? I am fortunate to be able to do what I do; to have family and friends who are caring and supportive of me, no matter what.

Parinaz Zartoshty, Director, International Student & Scholar Services

Parinaz Zartoshty,
Director of ISSS

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? The food and being with family. It is the only time of year I can count on spending time with my siblings, nephews and nieces, my mom and of course my own kids and partner.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? We always take time to reflect about the things for which we are thankful before we start eating the feast. We also leave the food on the table for hours so constant grazing all day.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for?I am thankful for my personal and work families. I also feel blessed to be able to do (as my job) something that I truly love.

Read more Thanksgiving stories and find great fall-inspired recipes by clicking on the links below:

Thanksgiving in the United States

Written by Lin Tian, who is an international student from Qingdao, China. Recipes in this blog post were created by Dominic Sumner. Both Lin and Dominic are students in the Nutrition program at SJSU. This is the final installment in a series of 3 Thanksgiving blogs by students in the Nutrition and Food Science program, where they will share Thanksgiving traditions and healthy recipes. ISSS is excited to collaborate with Professor Jamie Kubota and her students on this project for International Education Week.

Thanksgiving in the United-States 

Let’s Start with Some Background

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United-States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a holiday amid the Civil War in 1863. This national holiday honors the pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower (ship) at Cape Cod. 

The Plymouth colony was a group of English Puritans who wanted to break away from the Church of England. However, long before Europeans arrived, the area was inhabited by many Native Americans – including the Wampanoag people. But a few years before the Mayflower landed in New England, an epidemic had wiped out much of the native population. When the pilgrims reached Cape Cod, they were incredibly unprepared for the winter. In a state of desperation, the pilgrims robbed corn from native Americans’ graves and storehouses. But even then, half of the colony died within their first year. In 1621, a formal agreement was made between the settlers and the native people to protect their tribes. When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag sat down together to celebrate a good harvest in Massachusetts, it was recognized as the first Thanksgiving. In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation; after that, Thanksgiving was celebrated nationally. 

Thanksgiving that we know today happened thanks to the 19th-century writer Sarah Josepha Hale. She was America’s first female magazine editor and author of the famous nursery rhyme: Mary Had a Little Lamb. During the Civil War, Hale was convinced that a national Thanksgiving day would awaken American hearts to the love of home and country and thankfulness to God and peace. She wrote a letter to the governors and even President Abraham Lincoln suggesting the proclamation of one Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which carried forward the history of Thanksgiving. In 1870, Thanksgiving as a national holiday was signed into law. 

Today, Thanksgiving is more about family. However, the way we serve our turkey and our pumpkin may have changed; our entertainment evolved over the years from archery and displays of arms to football and parades. Thanksgiving has become a welcome day of rest to spend with loved ones in recognition and appreciation for all the blessings for which we are thankful.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

US Thanksgiving traditions

The celebration of Thanksgiving has its religious significance in American households. It originated to give thanks to God. On Thanksgiving Day, families get together to celebrate this holiday and share their gratitude. Communities may also hold food drives and free dinners to celebrate. 

Also, in the 1920s, the Detroit Lions came up with the idea of a Thanksgiving Day football game to boost dwindling attendance. In 1924, Macy’s department store started their Thanksgiving Day Parade, which heads down the streets of New York and ends at the store. In some major cities like New York City and St. Louis, Thanksgiving Day Parades are still happening as part of the tradition. 

In 1941, Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day a legal holiday when they moved the holiday up one week, so the official day of Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November.

What’s on the table?

The symbolic foods of Thanksgiving are turkey, potato (usually mashed), squash, corn, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Turkey, as a uniquely American bird, and although likely not on the tables of the original colonists, turkey has developed into a symbol of the holiday.  Over 46 million turkeys are consumed every year, on average of 16 lbs per turkey! Whether it’s roasted, grilled, or deep-fried, it should be placed at the center of the table. 

Meanwhile, roast some sweet potatoes and green beans, serve with butter and brown sugar and make it a full meal along with the turkey. Homemade cranberry sauce on the table is a must! The ratio of sugar, water, and fresh cranberry is 1:1:5. Boiled together for 10 minutes over medium-high heat, with a pinch of salt, and served cold. 

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is all about thankfulness. Show your gratitude to people around you; their support is the reason for who we are today. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to send out thank you cards to those who are there when we need them. Also, write a note to yourself mentioning things you are grateful for this year. It’s nice to go over this once in a while.

Reference: https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving

Written by Lin Tian, Nutrition student at San Jose State University. Born and raised in Qingdao, China

Recipes for your Thanksgiving Leftovers

One of the great things about the bounty of Thanksgiving is that we have leftovers from a delicious Thanksgiving meal! Dominic Sumner, a student in WHISK SJSU shares his creative ideas for your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Leftover Mashed Potato Pizza

This recipe combines leftover mashed potatoes and new ingredients to make a pizza with an American twist. We call for a premade crust here – but feel free to substitute homemade pizza dough – increasing cooking time to 15-20 minutes. Mashed potatoes are often served at a traditional Thanksgiving feast and if leftovers remain they will go great with this dish. The mashed potatoes act like tomato sauce.

Photo by Ivan Torres on Unsplash


  • ½ cup bacon, cut into small pieces (~6 slices)
  • 1 12-inch Boboli premade pizza crust
  • 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (like cheddar)
  • Salt & pepper& dried oregano to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 425-450°F.
  2. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until crispy. Drain on a paper towel and allow to cool.
  3. With the premade crust, spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the surface. Add the cooked bacon, and sprinkle the cheese over the top.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
  5. Place in the oven for 6-10 minutes or until the crust is golden. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cut pizza and enjoy!

Yields: About 4 servings (1/4 pizza)

Leftover Turkey Fried Rice

Leftover Turkey Fried Rice is a dish that combines leftover turkey meat from a traditional Thanksgiving meal with fried rice.  Brown or white rice can be used, however, brown rice has a slightly different texture.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash


  • 2 cups white rice, uncooked
  • ½ pound leftover turkey meat (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup green onions (chopped)
  • 1 cup carrots (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup leftover green beans (cut)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper


  1. Cook rice in a rice cooker or pot with 4 cups water.
  2. In a large wok or skillet heat oil and add leftover turkey. Add the chopped green onions, carrots and garlic, cooking for 6-8 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add beaten egg and cut green beans and stir periodically.
  4. In a separate bowl mix soy sauce, oil, and red pepper.
  5. Add cooked rice into the wok and sprinkle the mixture of soy sauce over the rice. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until heated through. And enjoy.

Yields:  4 servings

Written by Dominic Sumner, Nutrition student at SJSU


Global Leader Riya Shah, an international student from India, shares how she celebrates Diwali. Riya is currently studying from home in India, and was able to celebrate Diwali with her family this year.

Diwali is just around the corner, and millions of people across the country hope that the festival of lights will dispel darkness in more ways than one. Diwali or Deepavali is the Indian festival of lights, usually lasting five days, and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” The festival gets its name from the row (avalil) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Brimming with marigolds, the flicker of lamps, and the aromas of incense, our homes are transformed into spectacles of joy. This festival always brings hope and happiness.

In the lead-up to Diwali, Indians prepare by cleaning, renovating, and decorating their homes and workplaces with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of colored rice, sand or flower petals.During Diwali, people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas (oil-lamps or candles) and perform Laxmi puja, worship ceremonies of Goddess of prosperity and wealth. They light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai or sweets are shared.

The festival is incomplete without family, food and hours of conversation. It’s the time of the year when lights, gifts and even far-flung relatives come together to create memories that will be fondly remembered for years to come. Maybe it’s been years since you last met that distant cousin, or months till you meet your favorite niece again. As you savor each moment, share the goodness of love. 

Festivities in India are more likely to be smaller, more intimate, and digital this year. Also, situations like these make you realize what true celebration of life is- who are the people who really matter to you, how negligible you are on the face of this planet and what true joy is. The pandemic has put everything into perspective. Along with celebrations, festivals are also about nostalgia. Diwali signifies an important life lesson- the joy of sharing. Traditions of Diwali like gifting or sharing sweets and food together are always delightful. Times and circumstances may change but the bond you share with your loved ones will never fade. 

Do you have a holiday or festival from your culture that you’d like to share about? Email us at isss-programs@sjsu.edu 

Thanksgiving Around the World

Written by Yeyoung Lee, who is an international student from South Korea. Yeyoung is studying Nutritional Science and Dietetics at SJSU. This is the second in a series of 3 Thanksgiving blogs by students in the Nutrition and Food Science program, where they will share Thanksgiving traditions and healthy recipes. ISSS is excited to collaborate with Professor Jamie Kubota and her students on this project for International Education Week.

Thanksgiving Traditions Around The World 

Photo by oliversmarket

Thanksgiving Day is as big a holiday in North America as Christmas and celebrates the year’s prosperous harvest. In the United States, Thanksgiving Day falls on the fourth Thursday of November. Other cultures that celebrate a holiday of “thanksgiving” in hopes of abundance include Canada, Brazil, Liberia, South Korea, China, and Japan… Each country observes following their national cultural traditions.  

Canadian Thanksgiving Day 

Photo by the holidayspot

Unlike the United States, Canada’s Thanksgiving Day falls on the second Monday of October, about six weeks ahead of the United States. Canadians often use the three-day Thanksgiving weekend to visit family or friends who live far away or to receive them in their own homes. 

Many people also prepare a special meal to eat at some point during the long weekend. Traditionally, Thanksgiving foods included roast turkey and seasonal produce, such as pumpkin, corn and pecans, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and several autumn vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes but also brussels sprouts). Now, the meal may consist of other foods, mostly if the family is of non-European descent.

Brazil’s Thanksgiving Day

Photo by excellent global

In Brazil, Thanksgiving Day also takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. Known as Dia de Ação de Graças, it coincides with American Thanksgiving. Although it is not an officially recognized holiday, this festival is celebrated by many families of American origin and by evangelical churches such as the Foursquare Gospel Church in Brazil. Those who celebrate gather with family and friends to eat turkey (“peru” in Portuguese) along with pumpkin pie and sweet or mashed potatoes. The foods served are usually similar to those served for the American holiday. 

Thanksgiving Day in Liberia 

    Photo by Africa Imports African Business Blog

Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in Liberia. The festival is celebrated on the first Thursday of November and follows the same traditions as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a day to give thanks to God and Americans for freeing the slaves. In celebration, families gather together and enjoy roast chicken, green bean casserole, and mashed cassavas. Liberians usually eat their food hot and spicy, so cayenne and other peppers may be added to their Thanksgiving foods. As with all Liberian celebrations, there is plenty of music, song, and dance during the festivities.

South Korea’s Thanksgiving day (CHUSEOK)

South Korea’s Thanksgiving day is a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon. Chuseok is commonly translated as “Korean Thanksgiving” in English. Like many other harvest festivals around the world, it is held around the autumn equinox. As a celebration of the harvest, Koreans share a feast of traditional foods such as songpyeon, hangwa, bulgogi, japchae, and assorted pancakes, and traditional Korean liquors like baekseju and rice wines (makgeolli). Songpyeon is a type of tteok (small rice cake) traditionally eaten during Chuseok. Traditionally, Songpyeon was made by families and relatives using freshly harvested rice. Songpyeon is shaped like a half-moon and tastes chewy, nutty, and a little sweet. As it represents the moon and wishes, it is traditional for people to say their wishes while making and eating it. 

China Mid-Autumn Festival 

Photo by Chinahighlight

The Mid-Autumn Festival or the Mooncake Festival is one of the most celebrated Chinese harvest festivals and includes a big feast. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which is in September or early October, similar to South Korea. Similar to Thanksgiving, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for families, friends, and relatives to hold reunions and enjoy the full moon that is a symbol of abundance, harmony, and luck. During the festival, Mooncakes are eaten and shared with friends and relatives as a way of giving thanks. In addition to enjoying Mooncakes, Chinese people enjoy music and dancing in celebration. Mooncakes are a traditional food Chinese enjoyed during the Mid-Autumn Festival. It often has a salted egg yolk in the middle to symbolize the full moon. Writing or patterns on top tell of good fortunes to come and longevity. Traditionally, Mooncakes contain a paste made from lotus seeds or beans and tastes sweet.

Japan Mid-Autumn Festival

In Japan, the Mid-Autumn Festival is called Tsukimi. Tsukimi is held on August 15th of the lunar calendar. It is also referred to as Jugoya, which symbolizes the night of the 15th. The holiday marks the harvest of the crops, and thanks are given to nature. Considered a solemn celebration, the Japanese celebrate in a relatively quiet and solemn manner. Tsukimi dango is the most traditional food associated with Tsukimi. These round rice flour dumplings are steamed and may include red bean paste.  Traditionally they are displayed by stacking fifteen rice dumplings in a unique pyramid arrangement on a tray. Other foods associated with Tsukimi include chestnuts (kuri), taro (satoimo), and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin).

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Dinner on a Sheetpan (serves 4, or two with leftovers)

Roasting a whole turkey can be a bit intimidating even for seasoned cooks. Instead, try this recipe for a full Thanksgiving meal cooked together on one sheetpan and enjoy all the flavors of the holiday in a much more manageable and simplified form. Serve with cranberry sauce for a truly authentic American meal


For the dressing:

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup each chopped onion and celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

4 cups cubed sourdough bread (slightly stale or dry is best)

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork

Salt and pepper to taste

For the turkey:

1 2-pound boneless turkey breast

2 tablespoon softened butter

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning or dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sweet Potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Salt to taste

½ cup mini marshmallows

For the Green Beans:

1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil (or melted butter)

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° Line a ½-sheet pan with foil.  Use a second piece of foil to create a “tray” of foil that covers half the sheetpan – and will hold the dressing and turkey.
  2. Prepare the dressing: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and celery in the butter for 5-6 minutes until softened and just starting to turn golden brown.  Add the garlic and poultry seasoning and sauté one minute longer.  Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large bowl and stir in the bread cubes, chicken broth, beaten egg, ½ teaspoon salt and a good pinch of pepper.  Allow this to sit and absorb the liquid while you prepare the turkey.
  3. Prepare the turkey: Remove the turkey from its package and season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, stir together the butter and poultry seasoning (or thyme).  Carefully loosen the skin from the breast and carefully use your hands to work half the butter under the skin.  Rub the remaining butter over the top of the skin.  Spread the dressing in an even layer onto the foil tray and then nestle the turkey breast on top of the dressing.
  4. Prepare the sweet potatoes: Wash the sweet potatoes well. Using a knife, pierce each sweet potato 5-6 times (this prevents them from exploding while roasting).  Place the sweet potatoes on the other half of the sheet pan.  Place the pan into the preheated oven and set a timer for 45 minutes.
  5. Prepare the green beans: Toss the green beans with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.  After the timer goes off, remove the sheet pan from the oven. Test the sweet potatoes to see if they are done by inserting a paring knife into the thickest part – if it enters easily the sweet potatoes are done – remove them from the sheetpan.  If not, leave them on the sheet pan and scoot them to the edge to make room for the green beans.  Spread the prepared green beans in an even layer onto the remaining space on the sheetpan and then return the sheetpan to the oven and continue cooking until green beans are cooked and turkey has reached 165°F in the center (approximately 30-40 minutes longer. Note, if the sweet potatoes weren’t done yet, continue checking the sweet potatoes every 10 minutes and remove when softened).
  6. Finishing the meal: Once the turkey is cooked, remove the sheetpan from the oven.  Remove the turkey breast to a serving plate and place a piece of foil over the turkey breast and allow it to rest.  Remove the stuffing to a serving bowl.  Remove the green beans to a separate serving bowl.  Then, slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise to make 4 large sweet potato halves. Divide the butter and brown sugar over the potatoes and use a fork to mash them into the flesh, leaving the skins intact.  Sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the top.  Return the sheet pan to the oven for 5-6 minutes until the marshmallows are lightly melted and starting to turn golden brown.  Remove the baked sweet potatoes to a serving plate.  Slice the turkey and enjoy!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries are indigenous to the Americas, growing widely across the Northwest regions.  Used by both indigenous American people and settlers, the tart berries have become an integral component of the Thanksgiving traditions in America as they cooked into a sauce to accompany turkey or top desserts.  If you are short on time, you can buy canned cranberry sauce – many American families actually prefer it.  Simply open both ends of the can, push the jellied cranberry mixture out onto a serving plate, slice and enjoy!


1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup water (or ½ cup orange juice and ¼ cup water)

Pinch salt


  1. Place all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have burst and cooked into a sauce-like consistency (about 10-12 minutes.  Transfer sauce to a serving bowl and cool before serving.
  2. Enjoy!

Makes ~ 2 cups cranberry sauce


Andrew, S. (2019, October 07). 6 ways Canadian Thanksgiving is different from the US holiday. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/07/world/canadian-thanksgiving-2019-trnd/index.html

Rodgers, G. (n.d.). Chinese Mooncakes May Be Heavy, but the Festival Is Lighthearted Fun. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.tripsavvy.com/chinese-moon-festival-1458337

Korean, 9. (2020, June 29). Chuseok in Korea (Korean Thanksgiving). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.90daykorean.com/chuseok-in-korea/

Luiz, V. (1970, January 01). Dia de Ação de Graças (Thanksgiving Day) – O que é e como é? Retrieved November 12, 2020, from http://www.englishforbrazilianpeople.com/2014/11/dia-de-acao-de-gracas-thanksgiving-day.html

Imports, A. (2015, September 26). Celebrating Thanksgiving Day in Liberia – November 5th. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://blog.africaimports.com/wordpress/celebrating-thanksgiving-day-in-liberia-november-5th/

Yoshizuka, S. (n.d.). Japanese Autumn Harvest Moon Festival Food and Traditions. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.tripsavvy.com/tsukimi-japanese-harvest-moon-festival-2031040