Inside BB&N: Thanksgiving traditions


Madera Longstreet-Lipson, On Campus Editor

Upper School (US) students and faculty piled into a van on November 24 and headed to Dorchester to hand-deliver Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. This annual tradition, along with the Thanksgiving assembly and dress up day, form an effort from the school to recognize Thanksgiving and the many things to be grateful for.

Olivia Bancel ’22, who helped to deliver the baskets in 2018, said the experience was a good start to her holiday break.

“I remember going to one family’s front door and seeing their surprised faces as they said ‘No, this can’t all be for us,’” she said. “The family was so overwhelmed by the basket and couldn’t stop thanking me.”

Each basket is filled with turkey, mashed potato mix, stuffing, vegetables, and other staples. The Thanksgiving basket tradition, run by US Spanish Teacher Gabriela Gonzenbach for the past 22 years, requires the effort of the whole community, she said.

“It’s an effort by the whole school,” she said. “It’s a great way to get the community together for one cause.”

This year, the school donated 80 baskets rather than 70 due to a restructured collection system in which students brought food assigned by grade rather than each advisory making a single basket. This change was sparked by a larger need from Project Care and Concern, the organization that partners with the school to deliver baskets to those in need.

After all the food was collected, Ms. Gonzenbach’s Spanish classes distributed the food among the 80 baskets in the community room and added in frozen turkeys, which the school buys at a special price of 89 cents per pound. Seeing her students engage in this work, Ms. Gonzenbach said, is a meaningful new facet of their relationship.

“I see that part of my students that I don’t see generally, and they see me doing this, too. It helps send that message of solidarity, and it fills me with joy every time.”

On the afternoon of November 24, US Math and Computer Science Teachers Meena Kaur and Christine Oulton drove vans, packed with baskets and students Allison Wu, Max Bailey (both ’23), Maya Benjamin, Adrian Mendoza- Perez, and Daniel Wang (all ’22) to Harbor Point in Dorchester, where the delivery began.

Before this process, the US community gathered for the annual Thanksgiving assembly.

The assembly serves to unite the community and remind everyone of the bigger picture, Gali Levy ’22 said. Gali and Howie Brown ’22, by vote of the senior prefects, as well as US Director Geoff Theobald and US English Teacher Jean Klingler, spoke at the assembly. In her speech, Gali highlighted the significance of small acts of kindness.

“You don’t have to be a hero to do something nice, and you’re probably making more of an impact than you think you are,” she said.

Dean of Students Rory Morton ’81, who oversees the planning of the Thanksgiving assembly, said the holiday is a good time to slow down during a hectic part of the year.

“Thanksgiving is one of those times when everybody pauses and considers how grateful they are,” he said. “We take a deep breath. A lot of the messages that speakers have are about ways they have learned to appreciate having the time to spend with people they love and care about but also to just really be appreciative of what’s important to them.”

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is an annual dress-up day, with students and teachers in formal attire filling the Nicholas Athletic Center. The custom brings more attention to the significance of Thanksgiving and represents the formality of the assembly, Mr. Morton said.

“Dress-up day is a way of raising the attention and showing respect for the people who are performing and the people who are speaking.”

Senior Prefect Anika Desai ’22 said the prefects’ goal around the holiday is “fostering an environment of gratitude,” which they do by choosing the assembly’s student speakers and posting messages of gratitude outside Mr. Morton’s office.

“Everyone is so busy right now, but there’s so much we have to be grateful for this year, like in-person school,” she said. “We are back, and everything feels a lot like it was before the pandemic, but it’s important to take a step [back] and think about everything you have to be grateful for.”