How Do Latinos Celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and Canada?
Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos are traditional Latino celebrations in the US and Canada. Obviously, the Latino communities in these countries also celebrate Christmas, or Navidad.
Latinos in the US and Canada do celebrate Thanksgiving, but they do it in their own unique style and, as we’ll see, in a very delicious way.
In this post, we’ll explore how Latinos celebrate Thanksgiving, their traditions, favorite dishes, and some important vocabulary.
Latinos and Thanksgiving
Latinos have a strange relationship with this holiday. Because of their different history, no Spanish-speaking country celebrates it, as they weren’t colonized but conquered by the Spaniards. This historic difference created a completely different set of cultural consequences, mestizaje for instance, or the mixing of European and Native American people and genes. Another one, is no Thanksgiving in these countries.
However, once in the US or Canada, Latinos do celebrate it although with a definite Hispanic flavor. So, if you ever get invited to a Thanksgiving celebration in a Latino home don’t expect the traditional mix of turkey, mashed potatoes, and lots of football.
Día de Acción de Gracias
In Spanish, Thanksgiving Day is known as Día de Acción de Gracias or Día de Dar Gracias. The second translation is more precise as “Thanks-giving” literally means dar gracias. However, the first translation is the most widely used, and it would literally translate as “Action of Thanks Day.”
Most Latin American people discover Día de Acción de Gracias when coming into contact with the cultures of the United States and Canada. In my case, the first time I heard of this celebration was when I was still a little kid and found out that my favorite (American) football team, the Dallas Cowboys, weren’t playing on Sunday as always, but on a Thursday because of a holiday there.
Obviously, as this contact and interaction with the cultures of North America grows, traditions originally unheard of to Latinos are integrated into their customs with characteristic Latin style.
Some people say that a Latino Thanksgiving celebration is just a Latino party that happens to take place on Thanksgiving Day. Although this may seem simplistic and a bit unfair, the truth is that they kind of have a point. Let’s see what you may find in a Día de Acción de Gracias celebration:
A staple of the Latin culture, music takes the central stage in every Latin celebration and Thanksgiving is no exception. Expect a lively atmosphere filled with the sounds of bachata, salsa, reggaeton, and even some rancheras by the end of the night. Which brings us to our next item on the list…
Lots of Dancing
As you may have noticed, most of Latin music is tailor made for dancing. So, if you are not into Latin rhythms of any kind, brace yourself for a difficult evening. Because the thing with Latin people is that they don’t take a no for an answer when it’s related to dancing.
Besides, here everybody dances with everybody. Don’t make the mistake to think that by staying close to your Latino boyfriend or girlfriend you will be safe. If you get invited to a Latino celebration, odds are that you’ll dance with several aunts, uncles, cousins, and other people you’ve just met for the first time.
Latin music and Latin food? What’s not to like, right? Latinos have a special relationship with food, and some incredibly delicious dishes. Besides, their tortilla culture goes way beyond the famous tacos to include exquisite treats like pupusas, chuchitos, or enchiladas. La comida is one of the most amazing gifts from the Latin culture to the world.
We’ve been talking about Latinos in general, but remember that in that term a lot of nationalities are included. Food will vary depending on the origins of the hosts. Puerto Ricans may include Mofongo, Cubans plátanos maduritos, and Venezuelans ensalada de gallina, to give just some examples. But sometimes, and these are the kind of celebrations I love the most, interesting fusions of different cuisines will happen, and then you can expect to taste the most incredible flavors and textures.
Let’s see some of the most traditional dishes that Latinos prepare for their Día de Acción de Gracias celebrations:
Rice, in all its varieties and mixed with all kinds of stuff. Think of arroz as the Latino substitute for mashed potatoes, but with the added benefit that it brings a lot of other flavors with it. Latinos add to their arroz everything from beans to peas, including carrots, sweetcorn, and fried sweet plantain. You may get rice even for dessert, but mixed with milk, sugar, and cinnamon in a delicious arroz con leche recipe.
A Different Kind of Turkey
Some Latino dinners do include turkey, however most times is not the same turkey you know since your childhood. Instead of using the traditional Stove Top stuffing, Latinos stuff their turkey with ground beef, chorizo, bacon, and bits of pork.
You get the best of both worlds. The traditional American dish, plus the Latin skill to mix flavors and create new ones.
Also known as Mexican slow-cooker pulled pork, carnitas is one of Mexico’s most traditional dishes and one of the most popular ones for Thanksgiving celebrations in Latino homes in the US, too.
There are so many that I couldn’t choose just one, but one thing is for sure, get ready for an extraordinary dessert. It could be the above-mentioned arroz con leche, or perhaps the Latin dessert in vogue at the moment like flan, natilla cubana or tostones y turrón.
Whatever the choice, I can assure you that you won’t miss your pumpkin pie this year.
El pavo – turkey
El relleno – stuffing
El ñame – yam
La cena – dinner
El pastel de calabaza – pumpkin pie
La comida – food
El puré de patatas – mashed potatoes
El postre – dessert
Los peregrinos – pilgrims
El desfile – parade
Viernes negro – Black Friday
Ciberlunes – Cyber Monday
¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!
Happy Thanksgiving! If you enjoyed this post and find it useful to help you understand better Latino culture and Spanish language, leave a comment below and start the conversation with students from all over the world.
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