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Thanksgiving at the Catholic Chaplaincy

It’s a tradition every year to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s. It’s a great time to spend with friends, eat some good food and share what you’re thankful for from the past year. Check out Ciara's blog!

Pumpkin pie
What are you grateful for this year?

We are usually joined by some of our friends from the USA and it’s great to hear their stories from home.

The History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 when Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared harvest feasts in the autumntime, but it all began in 1620 with the arrival of the Mayflower. The passengers and pilgrims who made it were greeted by Native Americans who taught them how to live from the land. A year later, a celebratory feast was held, and the pilgrims invited their Native American allies to feast with them.

Years later in 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving by the United States government to show gratitude for the success and independence won from the American Revolution. New York was the first state to officially have an annual Thanksgiving holiday in 1817 and then it wasn’t until 1863 during the Civil War, that Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.

Thanksgiving today

Today, it is celebrated in most American households on the fourth Thursday of November. Turkey has always been a staple of Thanksgiving, so much so that 90% of Americans eat it on that day. The celebrations also include parades, most famously in New York. It is similar to Christmas here, in that those who celebrate Thanksgiving in America go home to their families to celebrate together.

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Catholic Chaplaincy

We started at 7pm on Thursday evening with group games. We all sat around in a circle and first played Salad Bowl. The leaders had written individual words or phrases on pieces of paper and put them in a box. The words and phrases were made known before the game started. Then, when it was someone’s turn they had to use one word to describe the word they had picked at random from the box and everyone from their team had to guess the word. The team with the most words their team had guessed, won.

Thanksgiving crowd at the catholic chaplaincy
Thanksgiving dinner at the Catholic Chaplaincy

It was very funny because some of the words were people’s names, or inside jokes. After, we played charades as a group. Everyone got really excited and competitive, and it was a great way to get us in the spirit to celebrate Thanksgiving.

This year the Catholic Chaplaincy have been joined by FOCUS missionaries (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). They hosted the games and rest of the evening, explaining to the rest of us their usual traditions from home. It was great to add a bit of American flavour to the dinner!

Enjoying good food together

And finally… we had Thanksgiving Dinner! It was kindly made by Jason and his team from Mosaic Café - what talent (I would recommend their grilled cheese sandwiches any day)! We had turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn, green beans, sweet potato mash (with toasted marshmallows on top!), stuffing and corn bread. Needless to say, I was well fed!

Afterwards, Mosaic and our American friends presented dessert - homemade carrot cake, apple pie and of course, pumpkin pie and cream! As it was an American classic, I had to try the pumpkin pie and cream even though I was already so full. I can honestly say, it was DELICIOUS!

Thanksgiving food
All the food for Thanksgiving Dinner

Being Thankful

It was certainly an evening of great chats, sharing food and stories and being able to celebrate our American friends. Most especially it was a time to practice gratitude. I am so grateful for the friends I have made at Queen’s, especially those at the Catholic Chaplaincy and all the opportunities I have had while studying my degree, even with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though Thanksgiving is now over for another year, I would encourage you to think about what you are thankful for this past year. Try sharing what you’re thankful for with friends and watch the gratitude grow.

Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin Pie for dessert

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty”- Charles Dickens


Ciara Cunningham

Psychology| Undergraduate Student | Belfast, NI

I’m a final year Psychology student at Queen's. I was born and raised in Belfast, just 20 minutes from Queen's. Even though I thought I knew everything about Queen's before coming here I’m still learning more about the university everyday and have met so many wonderful people on my adventures at university!

During my time so far, I’ve been an internationalisation committee member, secretary of QUB Sign Language Society, psychology research assistant and spend most of my time in the Catholic Chaplaincy where I have met so many unique people from different courses and countries I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’m also on placement at the moment in a Primary school and loving every second of it!

Ciara Cunningham