When he first came to the United States it was November during the Thanksgiving holiday season. He had no idea what was going on as the holiday was not observed in his home country of India. To acclimate himself, he chose to celebrate the day with fellow international students Saturday, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. at the Charleston Community Church.
Sangram Kodavatikanti, the pastor of Charleston Community Church, said the Thanksgiving holiday showed him a caring and family-oriented side of America he was not exposed to, which he felt he could bring to the Eastern-Charleston community.
Kodavatikanti said the event is called Friendsgiving, and it is open to anyone who wishes to come that day, especially international students, because many of them have never heard of such a holiday. Kodavatikanti added international students may not have a place to go for Thanksgiving to celebrate so this is a chance to education them on the holiday and explain its significance.
He said when he arrived to the United States, everyone was celebrating, eating and being merry, which he recalled seeing for the first time a large turkey.
“All that stuff was so good, it was really neat. We don’t have Thanksgiving where I grow up, but we have harvest festivals,” Kodavatikanti said.
The harvest festival is a three-day celebration for a good harvest where families gather with street drummers along with movies. The festival also takes a spring-cleaning approach where the participants throw out their old items and burn them, Kodavatikanti said.
Kodavatikanti said when he was growing up in India, he heard the U.S. was more business oriented than family oriented, so when he saw people celebrating Thanksgiving together as a family, he was pleasantly surprised.
“(Thanksgiving) is one of the biggest holidays,” Kodavatikanti said.
Because Kodavatikanti is a pastor, he said celebrating the holiday would also be a great way to bridge the gap between the international community and the entire Eastern-Charleston community.
Kodavatikanti said there will be holiday music played during the event as well as a group blessing; moreover, traditional Thanksgiving food will be served. This is the first time the event is being celebrated and if the reception from the students and community goes well he hopes to have another.
Kodavatikanti said he was thankful Eastern is present within the Charleston community because it allows him to reach out to other students and serve them in any way he can.
Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]