Last-minute shopping at Valencia Whole Foods

Thanksgiving preparations have been a common topic of conversation these past few days, but Mission residents are celebrating this year’s holiday in greatly varying ways.

For Jason Nazzal, the son of the owner of Valencia Whole Foods, the days prior to and the morning of the holiday are all business.

“We open on Thanksgiving, and it will be busy as hell in the morning,” he said.

Nazzal has been working in his father’s store for 10 years, so he’s used to the busy holiday.

On the eve and early morning of Thanksgiving, last-minute grocery shoppers pile in looking for pumpkins, turkey or sauce. But at about 2 p.m., business dies down because everybody goes to see family — and that’s what Nazzal plans on doing, too.

Once the store closes at 3 p.m., he’ll join some 40 family members for their “half-American, half-Arab” dinner, he said. The tradition is to all cook together.

Rosa García didn’t know much about the holiday when she moved from Mexico seven years ago, but she has been celebrating Thanksgiving ever since.

“The first year was kind of strange, but we like it,” she said.

There will be approximately 15 people at her table. However, they won’t eat turkey. “We don’t like it,” she said. Tamales and chicken will be on the menu.

Caris Leong, who came from Malaysia 15 years ago, likes the holiday, and so does her family.

“Now we believe in it,” she said cheerfully, standing in front of New Mission City on Mission Street.

On Thursday she’s going to her brother-in-law’s house after work to celebrate with 10 people.

“My daughter will cook the turkey, and we’ll have vegetables because my sister-in-law is vegetarian,” she said.

“It will be a bit American and a bit Malaysian … especially the spicy stuff!”

For Iris Estrada, who moved here from Honduras five years ago, there will be no holiday celebration because everyone in her family has to work.

“They work in restaurants, and I will be alone with my baby,” she said.

As for Ohio native Madison Young, Thanksgiving will be spent with her “chosen family.” Young has lived in San Francisco for 10 years and likes to get together with eight friends. This year, her eight-month-old daughter will be there, too.

“A lot of people here have a community that has become their family,” she said.

Everyone will bring something, and a tofu turkey will be the centerpiece of the meal.

Her friend Ahna Aorta faced two options this year: meeting the family of her new “romantic interest” in Chico or celebrate a “Punksgiving” with some friends in Redding. Romance won.

“I don’t really believe in Thanksgiving, I think it’s a sort of colonialist celebration, but this is the opportunity to meet someone’s family and cook with them, getting to know his mom that way,” she says.

For Kevin Smith, this will be a special holiday — the first one he spends at home with just his fiancé.

“She’s going to cook, and I’ll try to help,” he said. “She’s making chicken. Turkey was too much.”

Some will avoid cooking altogether and let someone else do it for them.

That’s what Matt Hort, manager at Valencia Farmers Market, plans to do. On Thursday he’ll work until 3 p.m., then head to a restaurant.

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Marta came from Zaragoza, Spain to master her English but everyone she speaks to wants to practice Spanish. After just a few months in the Mission, she already feels at home. In her free time she can be found reading books, watching movies, roller skating or just enjoying a good meal, an interesting conversation or a sunny walk around the neighborhood.

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