Live Opera and Whale Meat for Thanksgiving Dinner

Some Wheaton students spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii, Norway and Austria.

Roasted rosemary turkey, cranberry sauce and an aunt’s mysterious green bean casserole are some of the things that come to mind when students think about Thanksgiving dinner back home. But a handful of Wheaton students used the holiday break to vacation in places as far away as the Pacific Ocean and the North Sea. 

Freshman Grethe Gill, who grew up 30 miles northwest of Wheaton, in Pingree Grove, traveled to Hawaii with her family and explored Maui along the road to Hana, the scenic highway that traverses the eastern edge of the island, over her break.

Her Thanksgiving dinner was far from traditional.

“We went to this restaurant near our resort,” Gill said. “I literally had a salad for Thanksgiving. A salad!” 

But the trip was more than just a vacation. Gill’s father died in May 2021. It was tradition for her parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary every five years in Maui. 

“This year would have been their 30th and my dad turned 50 this year,” said Gill. “So we went to celebrate that. I loved going to places that I knew my dad had been to. You just drive through these mountains in the rainforest where there’s surges of downpours, and you see these waterfalls on the side of the road. It was so cool!”

Photo by Grethe Gill.

Freshman business and economics major Davis Whitehead traveled to Austria over her break, supporting her brother’s high school choir which was asked to sing at a music festival in Vienna. 

“I have no idea how they found our little high school in Dallas,” she said, laughing. 

While the choir sang in Austrian palaces, Whitehead and her parents explored Austria, Hungary and Turkey. 

Beginning their travels in Salzburg, the family enjoyed a Mozart-themed dinner with a live opera and Salzburger Nockerl, a sweet soufflé, which Whitehead described as a “whipped marshmallow,” for dessert. The next morning, they attended a “Sound of Music” tour, and the day after they explored Budapest, the capital of neighboring Hungary. 

Whitehead said she loved the Austrian Christmas traditions, as they put her in the mindset of the advent season. She said that as she explored the famous Austrian Christmas markets, she observed how each market had an area where you could walk through and see the life of Jesus. 

Meanwhile, about 1,200 miles north, freshman computer science and communications double major Phoebe Jeske also had a far-from-normal Thanksgiving experience hiking in the fjords of Norway, exploring the small western village of Flåm and dining on smoked whale meat.  

Jeske, who is originally from Madison, Wis., flew with her 17-year-old brother to meet her uncle and aunt on their goat farm in Norway for the short break. Her aunt works for a Norwegian company, Nofence, that creates shock collars for goats.

Phoebe smiling at the Stegastein viewpoint, a famous lookout point above Aurlandsfjord. Photo from Phoebe Jeske

While her aunt hiked with co-workers and went to meetings at their headquarters, Jeske’s uncle took them around Norway as they embraced the outdoorsy culture.  

Jeske, a self-described nature lover, said that she enjoyed learning about her Norwegian heritage, and that she felt at home in the mountains.  

“Seeing the scenery, seeing the natural world up close, instead of on a train or on a cruise, where you see the mountains around you but you’re not actually in them — it was just so good.” 

Anna Mares

Anna Mares

Anna Mares is a freshman International Relations Major with a Certificate in Journalism and minor in Spanish. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she loves drinking tea, thrifting, collecting and listening to records, photography, and her family.

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