This Date in UCSF History: November Traditions

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Originally authored by medical student Ashkay Govinder and published on Nov. 15, 2012.

I love cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal and sitting down at a huge table of friends and family to think about what we’re thankful for before stuffing ourselves beyond the point of functionality and then eating pie. 

But we would be cheating ourselves if we ignored some of the other important traditions of the time. 

If we look closely at the names of the months, the year should start in March. By starting in January, we have made November (from the Latin for the ninth month) the 11th. Likewise, September (the seventh) is the ninth, October (the eighth) is the tenth, and December (the 10th) is the 12th. 

The only way to make sense of this is to throw toga parties on March 1 in celebration of the Roman New Year. I have done this — Bacchus was praised. 

If it were not such a fond memory from your own past, wouldn’t it seem creepy to see two children struggling with the bone of a dead animal, trying to see who will get the larger piece when they break it? 

In case you didn’t know, the wishbone (or furcula) is formed by the fusion of birds’ clavicles, thought to strengthen the thoracic skeleton to withstand the stress of flight but penguins have them too. Hey, they fly underwater. 

Starting the month clean-shaven each year, Movember participants grow mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer. I will be sporting the Zappa the combination soul patch with slight handlebar extensions of the standard moustache. 

In anticipation of the feasting and football that is about to commence, quite a large number of people start off the day with an organized run known as a Turkey Trot. If you happen to be in San Francisco, the five-mile Turkey Trail Trot will begin Thanksgiving morning at the San Francisco Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park at 8 a.m. 

The Turkey Drop traditionally takes place during the first year of undergraduate training, but it also occurs to a lesser extent in the professional school population. It takes place when an individual comes to a new school in August/September with the seemingly perfect long-distance relationship from his/her last school. 

Things are fine for a month or two, but both parties start to realize they’re growing apart and taking interest in other people by about mid-October. 

By this time, they’ve already made plans to see one another back at home over Thanksgiving break, so it would be awkward to break up over the phone or Internet before then. Besides, these things are best done in person anyway.