Thanksgiving is one of the best and worst holidays to celebrate because, on one hand, you get to see your family again, eat home-cooked meals and push away all the upcoming assignments, projects and the entire semester to the back of your mind. On the other hand, you get to see your family again and prepare yourself for the upcoming questions that you’re not ready to answer.
While most people follow the same customs and traditions when Thanksgiving arrives, there are some customs that I’ve noticed only Latin American families do, which will seem odd to people who aren’t Latinos. From the food to the music, to the fact that we’ll never start eating on time and that’s there never enough seats for everyone, Latin Thanksgivings almost seem like a completely different celebration.
1. Thanksgiving isn’t just a family dinner, it’s un evento.
While most families have a calm, tasteful Thanksgiving every year, mine doesn’t. We treat Thanksgiving almost the same way we treat going to a party: We have a small bar, loud music playing and more people than chairs. The best part about it is that we all know very well that most of the time will be spent sitting on the couch in the sala (living room), talking to my cousins as we wait for everyone else to arrive. And trust me, we’ve waited far longer than we’ve wanted to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to my abuela’s house for Thanksgiving with a full face of makeup, a nice dress and heels that come off as soon as I’m done saying hi to every family member.
2. La Tia Entrometida (The Nosy Aunt)
We can all agree that every type of family has this type of aunt. The one that makes you feel like you’re being interrogated by some FBI agent. We all love her, but it can get a bit annoying when the classic, “Y el novio (boyfriend)?” question gets brought up. Especially when they ask you around your other tias, making you nervous and looking for a quick exit before they start commenting on your weight. My cousins and I usually speed-walk our way past them, hoping that we’re fast enough so that they don’t trap us. However, there are times when one of us does get caught and when that happens, we all fend for ourselves.
3. La comida (the food)
While most people stick to the basic dishes for this holiday like the turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, cornbread etc., as Latinos, we don’t do that. We sometimes bring in the pork, rice and beans, flan, pastelitos and a ridiculous amount of alcohol. I can’t imagine walking into my grandma’s house and not smell at least one Latin dish cooking; it wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving. We would be complaining as soon as we left the house, randomly bringing up how that one person forgot to make the flan or bring the pastelitos months after and talking about it again on the way to next year’s Thanksgiving dinner. How else are we supposed to drink our café (coffee) if we don’t have the pastelitos?
Courtesy: Once Upon A Chef
4. If you don’t have a child or aren’t married, you’re sitting at the kids’ table.
Most of my cousins and I are in our 20s, however, that hasn’t stopped our family from placing us at the kids’ table. Don’t get me wrong, the kids’ table is the best table, but it would be nice to at least have an adult table 2.0. I’m 21–years–old and I already know that my seat is reserved at the kids’ table. God forbid if I or one of my cousins tries to sit at the adult table, it just doesn’t happen. The funny thing is, I would probably still sit at the kids’ table even if I did get married.
5. Saying goodbye takes more than a minute.
After spending most of the evening with my tios, tias, abuelas, primos, and so on, gorging myself in delicious home-cooked food, I am ready to go home and sleep. However, my sister and I have come to accept that every time our parents tell us to put on our shoes so we can leave, it’s always a lie. How have we figured this out? It’s simple. When we see our parents start a new conversation with someone else while we’re halfway done to saying our goodbyes to everyone, we know that we’re not leaving. When we see our mom sit down at the table again to finish a conversation (that looks like it’s about to turn into a new one), my sister and I take off our heels. And, just when we’ve reached the garage, a couple of feet away from our car, our parents are reeled into another conversation with our tios and tias that were already there. We never arrive on time to anything and we never leave when we say are going to. However, I wouldn’t change one thing about how my family and I celebrate Thanksgiving.