In the United States, on the last Thursday of November, families get together to thank God and life for all the good things they have even in times of adversity: family, employment and achieved goals are some of the things for which they are thankful. This day is worldwide known as “Thanksgiving”.
What are the origins of this celebration?
It all began in 1620, when pilgrims traveled from England to the Americas aboard the “Mayflower”. They arrived in Plymouth, a place where all those who escaped from poverty and the Church of England’s constrictions would take refuge. These people were the first immigrants of North America.
Plymouth’s original inhabitants were the native tribes of Massachusetts who welcomed the English people at the time. The natives taught the pilgrims how to work the land, how to hunt and to cure the meat of the animals there. Little by little, cohabitation united them all.
When the pilgrims realized that they had a wonderful harvest that would help them survive the hard wintertime, they invited the natives to share a great meal with them to thank them for their hospitality and kindness. The celebration lasted several days and it became the first Thanksgiving in history. It was transmitted from generation to generation and, today, it is a holiday to thank for all the good things we have.
How do immigrants celebrate Thanksgiving?
Many immigrants of Latino origin think of Thanksgiving as “Turkey day”, a day on which American families sit around a big turkey surrounded by mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, peas, sweet corn and pumpkin pie as a way of thanking and starting the Christmas celebrations.
Many Latinos celebrate Thanksgiving with some variations. For example, not everyone bakes turkey but hen or chicken. Others prepare stewed chicken with potatoes, rice and salad (Russian salad in many cases: potatoes, carrots, beets, peas and mayonnaise).
Some Latinos feel more inspired when cooking chicken rather than turkey, because it is more familiar to them. As a result, they have lemon chicken with tomatoes, onions and stock on their tables.
Mexicans keep the American tradition, although they include cold chili with jalapeño peppers and chicken stuffed with beef. This recipe is baked.
Of course, there is a group of immigrants who prefer to cook their national dishes the other 364 days of the year, but to prepare the traditional American Thanksgiving recipes on that special holiday. They have dinner the American way to honor the country that is now their home.
Places like Mary’s Center, whose president is Maria Gomez, devote themselves to assist people in need in Washington. They distribute food to the poor on Thanksgiving.
Almost 70% of these families are Hispanic. They are given a nice portion of turkey, cakes, vegetables, rice, potatoes… everything they need to cook their own Thanksgiving dinner at home. They may also receive all those things already cooked and ready to be eaten.
Be it with chicken or turkey, the quickest growing community of the United States, celebrates this holiday. They have assimilated it as part of their integration process. None of them forgets about their roots, but they gladly join such a valuable celebration.
Let us now take a look at the differences between an American Thanksgiving celebration and a Latino one. The following chart, taken from the Panama America website, is really interesting:
|American Family||Latino Family|
|Food||Stuffed turkey||Pork, ham, turkey|
|Cranberry sauce||Rice with beans|
|Mashed potatoes||Mashed potatoes|
|Gravy||Gravy / mole sauce / guacamole|
|Cornbread||Tortillas / arepas|
|Baked beans||Enchiladas / Refried beans|
|Pumpkin pie||Rum cake|
|Eggnog||Eggnog with coconut milk and rum|
|Guests||Mother, father and kids||Mother, father, kids, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors|
|Activities||1 day and food is packed to be taken to work the following days||Several days and you visit relatives and friends who did not come to your Thanksgiving celebration|
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!