After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Each autumn when the harvest is brought in, the people of the world throw a party. Here in Argentina the grape harvest is celebrated in March in Mendoza. But at any time during the year, somewhere in the world people are giving thanks for their blessings.
The biggest holiday in the U.S. is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, and is also a harvest festival. Bigger than Christmas or the 4th of July, it is Thanksgiving Day. No matter the culture, race, or religion, on this day the salad bowl of American people are united by one tradition: a family feast of traditional foods (with ethnic specialities often added), and then football on TV.
Did you know that eight nations of the world have official Thanksgiving Days? -- Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Switzerland and the United States. (But try as I might, I could find no information on Thanksgiving in Argentina.)
The ancient tradition of declaring a special day or period for giving thanks goes back to the time when our ancestors hoped that an ostentatious display of gratitude would placate their capricious gods - thus ensuring continued bounty. But these days of thanksgiving were also occasions for celebrating the year's plenty with feasts and joyful gatherings.
Proclaiming days of Thanksgiving for various reasons - success in war, a bounteous harvest, the recovery of a king from illness - was part of European tradition for centuries.
Modern North American Thanksgiving lore is associated with the Pilgrims. In 1621, a year after arriving in the new world on the Mayflower, and following a severe winter in which many of their numbers had succumbed to disease, the colonists celebrated their first successful harvest by organizing a thanksgiving feast to which they invited the neighboring Native Indians. On the menu for that first American Thanksgiving were almost certainly some foods that are staples of the holiday today - turkey and pumpkin - along with other wild fowl, venison, oysters, clams, fish, corn cakes, and wild fruit and nuts.
But enough about history! What's for dinner?
On most North American tables, a turkey still holds pride of place for the annual Thanksgiving feast. In the US alone, over 40 million turkeys are consumed on this holiday weekend each year!
In November 1997 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the year 2000 as the official International Year of Thanksgiving.
That same year, an English writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, came out with the quintessential American Thanksgiving movie, called, WHAT’S COOKIN? In it, four families in Los Angeles, my hometown, celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The families are Mexican, Vietnamese, Jewish, and black, and show the dysfunctions and problems that all families have in common. On Thanksgiving Day, their commonality is also thankfulness.
We all have something to be grateful for, especially we expats, even though it's hard to be far from home and family on this most American of holidays.
On Thanksgiving Day and every day, I am thankful for you, dear readers!