My Thanksgivings in Canada
Every holiday has its legion of loyal followers who part even with hard-earned money for the celebration. But whether you’re a native-born Canadian, an immigrant, overseas worker or new Canadian, Thanksgiving, the celebrity feast of giving thanks, is a language that we all converse in.
It’s as much about reflecting on the bounty of blessings received as it is about embracing and participating in the culture of our adopted home. The festivities also remind us of how we all came to be part of this nation and make us think about the ways we have benefited from living in a diverse and open society.
But more than anything, Thanksgiving emphasizes the similarities we share. It’s a holiday that resonates with everyone, irrespective of our cultural differences, because it speaks to the value of coming together as a family.
And with the merging of different worlds, it is not only about recreating a typical Thanksgiving meal, but also about the act of people coming together to create and share a bountiful meal.
For some immigrant families, duck or roast chicken become alternatives to turkey during Thanksgiving. Alongside the turkey and stuffing, there are also others that add a dish from their culture to the tableau of food.
My family has always chosen to honour the holiday in a traditional way. It’s strictly a turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie holiday for us. Even when it’s usually just the two of us, no turkey is too big for my mom to opt out of cooking one for the occasion because she knows how much I look forward to her turkey. For her, there are plenty of other occasions to serve Filipino food.
My mom says going traditional is our way of paying homage to our adoptive homeland. The only time we broke the tradition was when I spent Thanksgiving away at school.
Thanksgiving, I learned while I was a student, living away from home, takes on a heightened importance because it reminds you of the value of having family and friends to break bread with. It becomes a homecoming feast, an overdue reunion and a chance to share a piece of your own tradition with friends.
I imagine the same holds true for people who are living far away from their immediate family. In the absence of family, friends often come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
When my friends and I decided to spend Thanksgiving at school, we treated it as an occasion to share our mothers’ signature Thanksgiving recipes, with each of us bringing our own comfort food to the table. I brought my mom’s roasted sweet potato and vegetable medley, and one friend offered up her mom’s corn soufflé.
This year, my Thanksgiving was celebrated with my mom’s friends, people who reflect the wonderful diversity that Canada embraces. While the menu hasn’t changed one bit — my mom still laboriously cooked the turkey and all the fixings on her own, we had the privilege of enjoying what other people brought to the table. One of her friends brought handmade apple kuchen pie and white wine from South Africa; another brought homemade pumpkin pepita loaves and red wine from Canada’s own Niagara Peninsula.
As we gathered around to say grace for the feast carefully made by loving hands, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have the blessings that I know I am privileged to have.