Afghan Refugees Celebrate Thanksgiving in Texas

They serve chicken rather than turkey – as many of these refugees have never heard of the larger bird. Turkey originated in the Americas.

PLANO, Texas – In a cool courtyard under two tents this afternoon, several hundred people gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time this afternoon.

“First time,” said a refugee from Afghanistan named Gulajan, 34. WFAA did not release his last name because his family is still in that country.

Gulajan is one of more than 200 refugees here participating in this new American tradition. A non-profit organization called Gate of grace held it in Plano at the Nativity Church on 18th Street. Gateway of Grace helps refugees restart their lives in North Texas.

On this day, servers offer chicken, not turkey – as many here have never heard of larger birds. Turkey originated in the Americas. And for the first time, the Thanksgiving menu also includes some traditional Persian dishes that the refugees are already familiar with.

“America is a very wonderful and beautiful country,” Gulajan added, “very hospitable people.”

On this day, he said he was grateful he was finally safe.

Gulajan said he used to work for a wireless company in Afghanistan and said he fled in August, just 11 days before the last American soldiers left.

But he’s also trying to get his family out.

“Yes, my wife, my children are in Afghanistan now,” he added. “I talk to them every day.”

“It’s not like going to a neighboring country. America is on the other side of the world, and we have a completely different culture. So when Americans embrace them, it makes it much easier for them to assimilate into the culture,” said Dennis Page, CEO of Gateway of Grace.

The refugees here are not only from Afghanistan but also from Pakistan, Iraq, Kosovo and many other countries. A Dallas woman named Samira . page, who founded the Gateway of Grace, holds the event every year. She is of Iranian descent and was once a refugee.

“Yes, I know what it feels like to be isolated, as an asylum,” she said. “They feel guilty that they survived, and they came here, and they left their families behind. And that guilt is really hard for them. So we really want them to experience a little bit of the fun of this year.”

This is the eleventh year Mrs. Page has organized Thanksgiving for refugees. Each time, she hopes that they will appreciate a new tradition by simply bringing in a sense of belonging.

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