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Traditions and Cuisines in one Celebration: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States. It is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November. It started as a harvest festival, and has become a very special day. A day of giving thanks for the blessings of the past year.

The first Thanksgiving is believed to have been celebrated by the pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people in 1621, after a successful harvest. It has evolved and changed though the years.

Today, Thanksgiving is a time for Americans and immigrants from all over the world who live in the United States to express gratitude for all the blessings they have received throughout the year. It is a time for families to come together and express appreciation for the good things in life. The holiday also serves as a reminder of the importance of giving back and helping those in need. It has become one of the most important celebrations in the US.

In this article, we dig into the Thanksgiving Day history and how immigrant families can celebrate it as a fusion of traditional American elements and our own music, cuisine, and interpretation.

A Look Into the History of Thanksgiving

Most historians coincide that it was not until Northerners gained control of the federal government that Thanksgiving Day became an official holiday. During the mid-19th century, sectional tensions between the South and the North were high. To promote unity, on October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.

However, there is evidence to suggest that Thanksgiving may have had different origins than the story that has been traditionally accepted and taught for many years. Records indicate immigrants celebrated a version of Thanksgiving prior to 1621. In 1565, 600 Spanish settlers held a Thanksgiving Mass in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Additionally, evidence indicates that a Spanish expedition rested near El Paso, Texas and celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass on April 30, 1598. Similarly, 38 English settlers from Berkeley Hundred celebrated a Mass on December 4, 1619 for the same reason, to give thanks.

A Felix the Cat balloon and other parade floats and balloons are led down Broadway during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Getty Images
A Felix the Cat balloon is led down Broadway during an annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Getty Images

Thanksgiving Nowadays

As the years passed, and as other celebrations, Thanksgiving has evolved from more than a religious event to a full festivity. Events have been added. Like, football games being played on Thanksgiving Day, giving some excitement to the day. In the late 1800s, parades with people in costumes became popular. And, since 1924, Macy's has held an annual parade in New York City, featuring giant balloons that captivates people of all ages.

At this moment in time, Thanksgiving represents peace between cultures, the American dream for newcomers, and the importance of home and family. And, because the celebration represents unity, the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and friends. Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast and giving thanks for all you have. Make sure to express your gratitude to those around you and take time to reflect on the positive moments from the past year. Try to find ways to give back and help those who are in need. Remember to take time to relax and enjoy the beauty of this holiday.

Thanksgiving Symbols and Traditional Dishes

Thanksgiving is full of legends and symbols. The traditional feast for this occasion usually includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. This holiday is also known for being the busiest time of the year for travel, as families come together to spend time with one another.

Therefore, we can say that the six main symbols of Thanksgiving are turkeys, cornucopias, cranberries, corn, pumpkins and beans. Cornucopia decorations are still the most appropriate centerpiece for American Thanksgiving tables as they represent the abundance and appreciation for a bountiful harvest.

So, a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner table must have roasted turkey and gravy; apple and cranberry stuffing; sweet potato casserole; green beans casserole; brussels spouts; maple walnut cranberry sauce; mashed potatoes; pumpkin and/or pecan pie. Some will have apple sider, red wine or other spirt drink.

Thanksgiving usually includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

Celebrating Thanksgiving as an Immigrant

Whether it's gathering with family and friends for a feast or incorporating unique customs and foods, immigrants and Americans alike mark this holiday in their own way. Thanksgiving has become a centerpiece for many neighborhoods and communities, with parties and gatherings among friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.

Throughout history, there has been a lack of association between immigrants and Thanksgiving in the United States. Nevertheless, due to the country's diverse population and cultural blending, it has warmly received immigrants from various countries. As a result, Thanksgiving is now celebrated in different ways, representing the unique traditions of each culture. Additionally, with the evolution of Thanksgiving festivities, more immigrants have embraced the holiday and incorporated their own customs into it.

In non-American households, a delicious baked or roasted turkey may be accompanied by Latin American or Hispanic delicacies such as Arroz con Gandules, Chicharrones, Empanadas, Quesillo, Ponche Crema and Ron Diplomático with our own music like merengue, bachata, salsa or flamenco, reflecting the diverse and inclusive nature of this holiday.

In my family, our boys come home. Sometimes, they invite friends who stay with us a few days. We go grocery shopping and cook together. Our dinner table is set with the best dishes and decorate the table with roasted turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes casserole, green beans, typically pecan or apple pie and wine. We listen to salsa, merengue or flamenco. A week later, we usually travel to Atlanta to celebrate the holiday with our adoptive family, the Bournes. We have so many reasons to be grateful for!

According to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 46 million immigrants in the United States who seek a better future, having fled violence, economic problems, political or religious conflicts, or family disputes.

For many immigrants, Thanksgiving serves as a day that highlights the good aspects of the US and reminds them of why they made the move

For many immigrants, Thanksgiving serves as a day that highlights the good aspects of the US and reminds them of why they made the move. It's also worth noting that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season each year. This economic shift activates the spirit of sharing and celebration, creating a sense of community across the country.

No matter how we celebrate Thanksgiving, because today, it holds a special place in the hearts of millions of immigrants including me and my family. We feel grateful for being welcomed into a country that provides us with the opportunity to safely thrive and succeed. Thanksgiving is the perfect day to celebrate the blessings we have received and to be grateful.

Finally, taking a look at Thanksgiving from the perspective of an immigrant, it's inspiring to see how we can blend both old and new traditions to create a truly unique celebration. By incorporating elements from our native cultures and the American traditions, we can create a beautiful and meaningful experience for all. This is a time to come together with loved ones, share stories, and give thanks for all that we have. Let's embrace our diversity and use it as an opportunity to connect and learn from one another.

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