Kiran Waqar: The Duality Of My Thanksgiving

Nov 22, 2017

On the eve of a holiday full of tradition, Kiran Waqar of South Burlington reflects on what it means to be thankful in her family and how they've crafted their own traditions.


Despite the abundance of stores full of Christmas decorations, Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been a time of self-reflection but also a somewhat painful manifestation of the dual identities I struggle to balance daily. Amidst the holiday cheer and playful “Friends-giving”, understanding where I fit in can be difficult.

Historically for me, Thanksgiving hasn’t been a day of long-loved tradition, but rather the haphazard formation of new ones.

Every year it seems that my family and I will take another stab at trying to merge our American and Pakistani roots. We annually pick and choose what we will integrate, but whether it be turkey one year or biryani the next, we never miss the opportunity to remember all that we should be thankful for.

As the child of immigrants, I’ve grown up knowing that being thankful isn’t a one-day thing, it’s a 24/7, 365 day kind of thing. It’s going to school and understanding the fact that you can ruminate on the differences between Hobbes and Locke, is itself a privilege - though hard to remember sometimes. It’s traveling to Pakistan to see family and friends and it’s understanding the extreme results of poverty. It’s being reminded daily that the sacrifices your parents made are all for you.

In this way, Thanksgiving is no different from any other holiday. In fact, I would argue that, for me, it more closely resembles a Friday night of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Swapping football and cranberry sauce for prayer and samosas, we annually transform Thanksgiving into something of our own.

While unorthodox and underrepresented in holiday ads, I wouldn’t trade my Thanksgiving for anything. Perhaps I’m biased because of never having experienced the traditional Thanksgiving outside of a school cafeteria. But I think the duality of my Thanksgiving as it builds on the traditional Thanksgiving, is to me, is the best part of the event.

I can look back on good times while at the same time creating new ones. And I, for one, am here for it.

Kiran Waqar is a senior at South Burlington High School and a member of the poetry quartet Muslim Girls Making Change.