Each country has its own set of idiosyncrasies, things that make it unique and different from other countries. The U.S. has many, mainly due to the multiculturalism of its population, one of which is Thanksgiving: a holiday at the end of November with less than ideal origins. My knowledge of Thanksgiving, along with all things American, comes from movies and TV shows. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of football and fall colors, a big turkey, and family drama. But over the past three years that I’ve lived in Colorado, I’ve found that Thanksgiving is what you make of it.
Over the past three years, my family has begun celebrating this holiday and we’re building our own traditions. For starters, we always make a turkey. A big, golden turkey with classic stuffing made from scratch that is left in the oven for a couple of hours. Because of this, we start cooking early in the day. Cooking in my household is a collaborative activity; we sit together and talk through a menu: entrees, appetizers, sides, and desserts. Then, we all cook together, each person with their specific tasks. My mom is the head chef, and we’re all her assistants. My dad and my brother are in charge of making the bread (mainly so they focus on just one task), and my sisters and I help with everything else. The older we get, the more responsibility we are given. We start by handing the ingredients and observing, then onto making simple things, like the salad or the dressing, then onto more difficult things like stirring the pot and peeling potatoes. To chileanize Thanksgiving, we’ll make something Chilean, like pastel de choclo and pan amasado.
After cooking, we all part ways to get dressed up and set the table. Whether we have guests or not, we always put on something nice and decorate the dining table with overpriced pinecones from JoAnne’s and tea light candles. Timed almost to perfection, we’re all back in the living room, dressed in our Sunday best, with appetizers, waiting for the turkey to finish cooking in the oven.
Dinner in our house is always fun. We talk and joke and laugh and reminisce about the past few years. The conversation never dries up and we never run out of topics —from discussing the ethics in engineering to the alternate endings to Avengers: Endgame. Then, we’ll go around the table, saying something we are grateful for. It can be as simple as passing an exam, or as profound as appreciating each other. Thanksgiving is one of the few American traditions we do in my house. Since moving to Colorado, we’ve tried to maintain our culture and make our home a space where we can be our Chilean selves.
Then, after we’re as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey, and the dishes are in the dishwasher, we’ll play a game —usually a card or board game, something we all can play together. Our favorite, one that always makes us laugh is El Asesino, The Killer. We cut out six paper squares and draw five circles and one cross, then we fold them up, put them in a hat, and pass them around. Whoever gets the cross is the killer. The goal of the game is to kill as many players without getting caught, which is done by winking at them. It’s a simple game, but when your stomach is full and you’ve had a few glasses of wine, it’s hard to keep a straight face and we burst out laughing as soon as we make eye contact with someone else. This is by far my favorite part of the night. We mess around, laugh, and make fun of each other. It reminds me that no matter where we are in the world, we’ll always have each other, and we’ll always be able to be happy together.
Moving to a new country is hard, especially when it’s one with practically no cultural overlap. Everything is new: the language, socializing, traditions, and you try your best to fit it —to assimilate. But who says we can’t have the best of both worlds? There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate, so long as you spend it with loved ones and have a good time. Thanksgiving is whatever you want it to be: a moment to be grateful for your life, to sit down to eat with family and friends, or just a break from classes. Thanksgiving is what you make of it.