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Look a little deeper: Who are Ducks calling family this holiday season?

Going home for the holidays encompasses a lot more than themed dishware and a meal around the table with relatives you barely know. In fact, the holiday season can give the term family a whole new meaning. With every passing year, the traditional nuclear family is becoming an ancient phenomenon, and the mixed, unconventional household is taking its seat as the new normal.

Either way, whether your family is big or small, typical or atypical, whether it consists of blood relatives or the best of friends, this season is the time to overindulge on staple recipes and enjoy the company of people dearest to you. To find out how and with whom the Ducks celebrate, the Emerald roamed the EMU and offered students who were willing to chat a quick break from studying.

Lola Butcher

Junior and public relations major Lola Butcher considers her family decent sized. “For Thanksgiving, we usually spend it with my Mom, and then do something super random with my Dad,” she said.

As the middle child, Butcher sits between her older brother, who is her go-to for advice, and her younger brother — labeled the spaz. “I’m very sarcastic, so hopefully I’m funny to a lot of my family members,” she said.

Butcher called Seattle’s grunge scene the real deal and a way of connecting with her family. She laughed as she remembered rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Nirvana in the back seat of her Dad’s convertible. “He’s just kind of a crazy dude so it’s a lot of fun to hang out with him and jam out to music,” she said.

Lola Butcher, a student at the University of Oregon. Nov. 15, 2017. (Madi Mather/Emerald)

Butcher gushed about her mom’s cooking. “My mom, she’s ugh, she’s just an amazing cook. She makes green bean casserole, oh my goodness,” Butcher said.  Her biological family won’t be the only ones enjoying the breadcrumb-topped dish. “We’ll always bring in a couple extra people that aren’t going home,” she said. Whether friends from school or from the local Seattle area, Butcher’s family welcomes others who might not have a place to spend Thanksgiving. “It’s just a holiday that brings everyone together,” she said.

Monica Chao and Noam Fein

Quirky couple, Monica Chao and Noam Fine, were enjoying a moment in-between classes at a table for two by the print shop in the EMU. Chao, a sophomore studying business and economics, and her boyfriend Fein, an undecided sophomore, planned to spend Thanksgiving at Chao’s house in Portland.

Despite the fact that Fein is close to his own family, he said that being at Chao’s house is a whole different experience. “I have five family members, [but] she has like 200, so it’s just insane,” he said.  “I can’t even explain it. I think the biggest thing is [that] they are a sensitive community…there are always a group of people in her house and they’re always doing something.”

Chao elaborated and said she lives in a cul de sac with each house belonging to a family member. “The entire street is my cousins,” she said. 

Monica Chao and Noam Fien, students at the University of Oregon. Nov. 15, 2017. (Madi Mather/Emerald)

Holiday traditions aren’t customary in Chao’s house; however, whenever a sibling graduates high school, the others gift the graduate with a Build-A-Bear. Chao appreciates the sentiment and plans to continue the habit until her youngest sister finishes high school.

Chao’s mom is credited with cooking some stellar Pho, a Vietnamese dish consisting of broth, herbs, rice noodles and meat. “It’s really good too, her food is really good,” Fein agreed.

Keith Hayataka, Kevin Jong and Matthew Medved

Freshmen Keith Hayataka, Kevin Jong and Matthew Medved were quite the entertainers as they sat at a picnic table outside the EMU.

The rowdy boys joked about family pranks and reminisced about some situations that easily walked the line between funny and cruel. “I threw salt in my sister’s eyes before. I thought it was sugar,” Jong said. Hayataka quickly challenged Jong’s story with his own tale of his twin brother spraying Clorox in his eyes. “Yeah, everyone started freaking out, they had to grab me and hold me under the water to rinse out my eyeballs,” he said.

Medved appreciates the fact that his family instilled in him the value of following your dreams. The other guys harped on him for being cliche.  “I think they always tell me to keep going and keep pushing forward and keep doing what you love and good things will come out of that,” he said.

Jong considers himself the funny one within his family, while Hayataka identified as the stressful one. Medved had a little more to say. “I feel like I’m kind of like the anchor in the family. I feel like I keep everyone sane,” he said. 

The luxury of home-cooked meals has become much more meaningful as these freshmen have been enduring the University of Oregon residence halls. Jong mentioned he was especially excited about authentic Korean food, something he hasn’t had in months. Make no mistake that the guys have no part in the Thanksgiving cooking process — culinary art is not their forte. “I cooked super watery macaroni once, if that counts,” Jong said.

There was no question about the favorite dish of the holiday. “Mashed potatoes,” they all said in unison. Jong is excited to sleep in his own bed and have space to actually move around in his room, opposed to the dorms. He’s also looking forward to seeing his dog, a Cocker Spaniel so cute it had him reaching for his phone to present videos as evidence.

Thanksgiving brings people together and allows time to take a step back and appreciate the lovely parts of life that are often neglected. Butcher is thankful for good health in the midst of a family line that contains a history of cancer, while Chao appreciates being alive at all, noting that she had issues with her lungs as a baby.

No matter the circumstance, take some time this week to write a list of things to be thankful for and share it with those you call family. The key to having a rich and fulfilling holiday season just might be unplugging your laptop, setting down your phone and looking away from the Cyber Monday deals. “It’s all about the love,” Butcher said.

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Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban is an associate A&C editor at the Emerald from San Jose, CA.

For tips or questions contact her at [email protected] or check out her work at