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To Some, Holiday Is Bittersweet

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Many Chicago-area immigrants are celebrating Thanksgiving with gusto. But, underneath, some have mixed feelings.

The 500 members of Chicago Tamil Sangam come from the southern Indian state of Tamil. An IT consultant in Naperville named Jaya Veera helps lead the group. She says it embraces U.S. holidays, especially Thanksgiving.

VEERA: I’m supposed to be bringing the dessert.

Veera’s family is having an annual potluck with Tamil friends.

VEERA: I haven’t baked a pie before so I’m going to just try something which I found on the Internet.

What kind of pie?

VEERA: Cranberry and pear.

MUJICA: You don’t work and you have a feast. That’s a very good holiday.

Jorge Mújica has helped organize three huge immigrant marches through Chicago’s Loop. And he has celebrated Thanksgiving since his childhood in Mexico City.

MUJICA: Or, if not Thanksgiving, at least we had a dinner with a turkey which, in Mexico, wasn’t a very common thing. I vaguely remember my parents saying something about giving thanks and Native Americans and colonizers in the United States.

A Palestinian retiree named Khairy Abudayyeh helped form Chicago’s Arab Community Center in 1983. Thanksgiving reminds him of Islamic feasts.

ABUDAYYEH: But after I learned what happened to the Native Americans, I wasn’t so happy about what went on. Just like our people, we’ve been in disarray, we’ve been in diaspora. But I still appreciate the holiday itself as a family gathering.

Like every Thanksgiving, two dozen loved ones are gathering at Abudayyeh’s North Side home for turkey and standards like hummus and baba ghannouj. He says his wife is in charge.

ABUDAYYEH: ‘Cut the onions’ (laughs). Anything that doesn’t need technicality, she assigns it to me, when it comes to cooking.

The feast begins around 4 p.m.

I’m Chip Mitchell, Chicago Public Radio.

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