The guttural hum of a singing bowl kicked off a Thanksgiving celebration hosted by the Office of Religious Life (ORL).
Students gathered together for the annual “My Big Fat Interfaith Thanksgiving” on Monday evening in the Chancellor Green Rotunda. Faculty, staff, visiting scholars, deans, heads of colleges, and community members joined to share warm food and conversation at the event. Attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together during times of hardship for many communities.
Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel Theresa S. Thames began with a message emphasizing the importance of togetherness, saying during the event, “Our relationship with Thanksgiving is complicated, right? But the one thing about this time is that it’s right here, us being able to get together.”
Attendees were encouraged to write what they were thankful for on small orange cards that advertised the event. After exchanging cards, people volunteered to read and share what they were thankful for. Associate Dean of Religious Life Matt Weiner, who proposed the idea, told The Daily Princetonian that “People are sharing something intimate with each other without exactly even really knowing it and then appreciating it.”
Many students expressed gratitude for their family and friends, and others mentioned they were grateful for the opportunity to gather during times of hardship. One participant shared their gratitude for their roommate Yvonne, to which another attendee responded, “We all have a Yvonne in our lives.” Some children in the community shared, “I am thankful for my mom and dad,” to which the crowd responded with endearment.
The event has been held annually for over 10 years. “It’s called ‘My Big Fat Interfaith Thanksgiving,’ but it really is an opportunity to gather as many students and faculty and staff on campus for a gathering of food and just being together before everyone gets busy and departs for the holidays. It’s a touch point of community and connection,” Thames said.
The food served was completely vegetarian with Kosher, gluten free, and vegan options included. Mashed cheesy potatoes, provencal bean casserole, roasted root vegetables, stuffing, and cornbread were among the entrees served. Various flavors of pie and hot apple cider were offered inside the rotunda. While food was plentiful, attendees were encouraged to carry home extra food in takeout containers that were provided.
Rhim Andemichael ’24 said in an interview with the ‘Prince’ that this was the second time she attended the ORL Thanksgiving’s event. “The food was really good, everyone was super nice, and the speech last year was really nice, so I figured it would be nice to come back, especially my last year,” she said.
She also praised the event for being sensitive to the complexities surrounding Thanksgiving. “I’ve come to be a little hesitant when it comes to Thanksgiving events, but I think this event is less interested in American history and more interested in just bringing people together, which I like,” Andemichael said.
Abdul Wahid Wafa, a professional specialist from Afghanistan currently on the Princeton Humanities Council, attended the event with his three children.
“We’re living in a very dangerous and difficult world, so anything that makes different people and different cultures come together is great,” he said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ He added that it was the first time his children were participating in an interfaith program and that they greatly enjoyed the event.
Sitting at a table full of lively conversation, Davi Frank ’26, one of the incoming co-coordinators for the Religious Life Council who helped organize the event, said in an interview with the ‘Prince,’ “I had some really amazing conversations and that’s what this is meant to be.”
Frank added, “I’m really thankful this year to have a lot of unconditional love.” He expressed that there are many people on campus who have supported him through hard times.
Thames emphasized that being in community and sharing in gratitude were the goals of the event. “It really is about gathering,” she said. “This is a beautiful way to start this time of year, by remembering the little things that are actually extraordinary.”
Weiner echoed the statement. He said, “If I’m really grateful for something, it’s something that’s not secret, but it’s intimate. It’s something precious that I’m grateful for. The world continues to have all these terrible things going on, but this is a refuge.”
Michelle Miao is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Jacqueline Zhou is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.