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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

Thanksgiving a different way by Shuli J. '22

All the cool kids call it "Friendsgiving" now, right?

Thanksgiving at MIT has always been just a paltry two days off, Thursday and Friday, to make a four-day long weekend. This year, breaking tradition, we got the full week (to allow for on-campus students to pack and move out). In the days leading up to our unprecedentedly luxurious break, I got more and more excited. We were in the twelfth week of the semester, really very close to the end,01 MIT officially has 15-week semesters; it's usually 13.5 weeks of classes, plus 1 week of exams. and I was t i r e d. I was ready to sleep in! To relax! To have fun!

Well, it turns out that the week before the last week-and-point-five of classes is actually, uh, not a break, even if you don’t have any class. My housemates and I frantically started final projects, caught up on recorded lecture videos, and cranked out psets all week. But despite all odds, we managed to get in some fun (mostly while feeling guilty about doing so, which is a real classic MIT experience). Here’s what we got up to:

I promised myself that no matter what, I wouldn’t do any work until the Monday of break. (Well, initially, I said “no academic work but I’ll start on research”, but of course I didn’t start on research either.) So on Friday afternoon, I turned in my last pset, made some bread and a chickpea stew, and felt freeeeeee. We sat around all evening and late into the night, talking and laughing and getting deep with each other. It felt like what Friday evenings could be — what every evening could be, if we weren’t psetting all the time.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to help run a quizbowl tournament; despite getting approximately four hours of sleep, which is half my usual amount, I was energized by Friday’s leftover freedom. I helped out at the tournament, and then left for my house’s weekly 11 am cleanup. But this was no normal house clean! We had agreed to go way beyond our usual list (bathrooms, kitchen, sweeping, etc.), and into our pipe dreams of cleanliness. We soaked pans, scrubbed blinds, bleached fridges, and put up Christmas lights.02 This one was from my pipe dream list. Some of my housemates said it didn't count as cleaning >:( but we all enjoy them now! When we finally finished at 1:45, I was worn out and hungry, but looking around at all our newly-clean possessions felt wonderful.

While we were cleaning, we opened some windows; then while we were sitting around, tired and triumphant, we noticed that the weather was actually very nice. Exceptionally nice. “What if we just… went hiking, right now?” someone proposed. We had three hours of daylight left!03 Being at the eastern edge of the timezone really sucks. Today, the sunset was at 4:12 pm. The moment was ours! We seized it and headed out to Middlesex Fells, where we had an absolutely beautiful time.

On our return, I did several loads of laundry and went to bed with that good kind of exhaustion I haven’t felt in so long, that of a day well spent in happy productivity and togetherness.

On Sunday, we Made Pancakes. This is an Event at our house, and occurs only rarely. There were two types of pancake,04 I made my classic passed-down-through-family-recipe chocolate-banana pancakes, and my roomie made fluffy sourdough ones with the discard from my starter. both in abundance, and everyone ate their fill (and perhaps a little more). I made bread, as is my custom, and we feasted all the day on carbs, as is our custom. In the evening, after a protracted battle over which movie to watch, we settled on The Muppet Christmas Carol. I didn’t vote for it, but I’m very glad it won; it was an excellent and funny feel-good start to the holiday season. (Since I am Jewish and therefore contractually obliged to balance out all this Christmas content, please also appreciate this hilarious song my housemate shared with me the same day: Can I Interest You In Hanukkah?)

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were mostly lost to psetting (so what’s new?). I escaped for a brief stint out to dinner with Alan and CJ, and we started my housemate’s extremely cool jigsaw puzzle that she bought off Kickstarter. In addition to being a gorgeous piece of art, this puzzle also has a lot of very interesting hidden secrets that we very much did not expect. But I won’t spoil any of those here, so instead, here’s a picture of the art:

The poster art for a puzzle. It is a very colorful maze where every room has a different environment.

Isn’t this the absolute coolest puzzle art you’ve ever seen? It’s just gorgeous

Finally, Thursday came around, and on Thursday…

Thursday we feasted once more! We had planned our feast at least two weeks ahead, overkill spreadsheet and conditional formatting courtesy of yours truly, to accommodate early trips to Costco and Market Basket for ingredients. The menu was a mishmash of each person’s favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, plus random food we just wanted to cook. Much of Thursday was spent navigating around five other people in our tiny kitchen, turning the thermostat down because the heat from the oven (and each other) was enough to keep us toasty. And at the appointed time of 5.26 pm, aka we planned to eat at 5 and ran late, we assembled for a truly glorious meal.

Click the arrow to see food names. Not pictured: apple pie, roast potatoes, okonomiyaki, garlic focaccia (all already eaten); pecan pie (still in oven).

None of us went home for a traditional Thanksgiving, but nevertheless we had a really nice time. We ate all together, with a smorgasbord of our favorite dishes, cooked as a group. And before we tucked in we all went around and said our thanks, and not to violate anyone’s privacy but they really all boiled down to the same thing: we’re grateful to be here with each other, to have a group of people we can rely on and friends to keep us going. This year had a lot of bad in it; I don’t think it’s controversial to say that we had a little less to be thankful for than usual. But at least we do have, here in our cozy apartment, some of what’s truly important. And I’m very grateful for that.

(Now, back to psets.)

  1. MIT officially has 15-week semesters; it's usually 13.5 weeks of classes, plus 1 week of exams. back to text
  2. This one was from my pipe dream list. Some of my housemates said it didn't count as cleaning >:( but we all enjoy them now! back to text
  3. Being at the eastern edge of the timezone really sucks. Today, the sunset was at 4:12 pm. back to text
  4. I made my classic passed-down-through-family-recipe chocolate-banana pancakes, and my roomie made fluffy sourdough ones with the discard from my starter. back to text