How Latinos Celebrate Thanksgiving
You could argue that Thanksgiving is the most beloved American holiday among Latinos. No disrespect to July 4th, Veteran’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day (yep, that last one originated in the New World), but Thanksgiving hits the most important cultural, familial, and of course, culinary notes for all Latinos who now call the United States home.
That's not to say that Latinos aren't keenly aware of, or don't relate to, the dark history of this holiday. For Native Americans, this is a day of mourning, and as conquered indigenous peoples, most Latinos know their history has undergone similar pain and sorrow. But if there's one thing we know, it's how to find joy in even our darkest times.
Thanksgiving is also about two unique cultures coming together. The spirit of the first Thanksgiving was one of camaraderie and brotherhood among two peoples who shared common challenges. We Latinos can relate. And in that spirit, here is our love letter to what we call el día de acción de gracias.
Why Latinos Love Thanksgiving
When you think about it, it's no surprise that we love the Thanksgiving holiday. It's all about the three things that are most important to Latinos: family, food, and faith. More than any event, Thanksgiving brings the family together. There are no gifts to exchange, just bread to break with our loved ones and an opportunity to be truly thankful for what we have. There is no fiesta without familia for us, so any event that we can celebrate as a family will be cherished. And as for being thankful, just ask anyone from Latin America or South America who has made a life for themselves and their family members in the U.S. about gratitude. We know what our adopted homeland has given us, and for that, we truly, deeply, and humbly say gracias. And so, we take "Thanksgiving" quite literally. Having said that, we kinda do it with our own twist, because of course we do.
A Latino “San Giving”
Here's one simple way to know you're at a Latino Thanksgiving: It's a party. Look, TV taught us that a traditional Thanksgiving involves gathering around the dinner table for an epic Thanksgiving meal, watching football or movies, and generally sleeping off the turkey. But for us Latinos, there's generous amounts of alcohol, be it coquito (the Puerto Rican version of eggnog), tequila, or something else that gets the fiesta going. And then, there's music. Salsa, bachata, cumbia ... whatever your favorite Latin music, there's going to be a festive soundtrack to any Latino Thanksgiving. And what comes with music? Dancing, of course. Because we can't hear our music without dancing. Because if you can't have a good time on Thanksgiving, then what's the point, right?
Also, while the official translation of Thanksgiving is dia de acción de gracias, you might also hear reference to “San Giving” at a Latino Thanksgiving. This isn’t just a simple pronunciation issue. A “san,” or “saint,” is the subject of many festivals across Latin America. And so, “San Giving” is a subtle homage to our roots as well.
Thanksgiving Dinner con Sazón
Turkey with cornbread stuffing? Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie for dessert? Yeah, the traditional dishes of the Thanksgiving you grew up with didn't make it to our table. Here's a few dishes that you might find at our table on Thanksgiving Day:
Fowl Play: Turkey might be sacred on the Thanksgiving table, but a Latino home will always bring the sazón. For example, Puerto Rico gives us pavochón, which is a turkey cooked in the style of lechón, or roast suckling pig. The result is a juicy, tender, and well seasoned alternative to your classic turkey dinner. We also tend to stuff our turkeys with chorizo or ground beef, or season it with adobo .. whatever gives it that Latino twist. Oh, and it might not even be turkey on the table! Pork is perfectly acceptable, whether it's pernil or pulled pork carnitas.
Rice: We can't do Thanksgiving without rice. Actually, we can't do most family meals without rice.
Dessert: Okay, so we don't really do pie. Arroz con leche? Yes, please. Flan? Right this way. Natilla? Absolutely. Turrón? Of course. But no pie.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Latino families gather to celebrate a day of love, gratitude, delicious food and glorious fiesta. And even if we add our own voice to the celebration, we do so with gratitude and love.
From all of us at Lu, Happy Thanksgiving!