Canadian Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holidays for my family. The excitement begins when I start seeing pumpkins everywhere – at grocery stores, at Costco, on school snacks calendars, on print advertisements, on news promoting pumpkin patches and deals on this fruit (yes, fruit) everywhere.
We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving today but hosting a festive lunch. The actual day is tomorrow – Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. We had some of our friends over for a celebratory lunch with the usual menu – Turkey and Gravy, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Casserole, and Yams (Sweet Potatoes). This year, I also added Cornbread, and a Beets-Apple Mash. Thanks to Trader Joe’s, we had delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert.
As an immigrant, participating in Thanksgiving activities in the United States were a cultural right of passage. I did not know the significance of the day or its controversial and bloody history. To me, it was a day off from school and whenever invited over to someone’s home, a delicious meal.
Then, I married a Canadian and learned of the reasons why Canada celebrates a day of thanksgiving. Even though there are a few different explanations for this, the one that appealed the most to me had to do with it being a celebration of harvest and a symbolic way to say thank you to the good fortune that the previous year had brought along.
I take pride in raising my multiracial and multicultural kids and Canadian Thanksgiving or as Canadians call it, Thanksgiving, is just one of the cultural celebrations we observe. The others are Diwali, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
The first time I cooked for Canadian Thanksgiving, it was just for Aaron and me. The following year we invited a bunch of friends over for dinner and I remember making a whole array of items including Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Cupcakes, and another item I now forget. I remember the hours at the kitchen stove sweating it out with the cooking, 5 months pregnant, and stressing over how everything would turn out – it was my first time hosting so many people and I wanted everything to go well. Most of all, I remember the fun and laughter, the happy cheers floating around my dinner table, and the strong friendships.
The following year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with even more people and had even more fun. It was also Baby J’s first Thanksgiving and he got a pretty little bib from one of our friends to commemorate the occasion (see image below).
Then, we moved to San Jose and celebrated our first Thanksgiving in a new city with a few close friends. We didn’t have as many people as we did in Chicago but the chaos surrounding cooking everything on time and to taste as delicious as I could pull off, the stress levels, and the amazing conversations accompanied by the warmth of friendship were all just as intense and memorable.
This year, we had two more people than last year including Baby E. This was her first Thanksgiving and although I only gave her a little of the food (only a pinch of Sweet Potatoes earlier in the day), it was still memorable.
I really enjoy cooking Thanksgiving food especially because it has a predictable menu and I am not spending time trying to figure out what to make. I may make a few modifications or add a new dish but I don’t have to. I can simply make the usual suspects of Thanksgiving items and it will still be a great meal (assuming everything tastes well).
The one thing that does accompany holiday cooking, be it Thanksgiving or Diwali, is the stress I take on to ensure everything is just perfect. Even though in the end it all seems to come together wonderfully well (Thank Goodness!), there have been an occasional sweet potato or two that has gone flying across the living room floor because the skin refused to comply to the demands of the peeler! Oh well..what is a holiday without a little stress.
In the end, I had fun catching up with our friends. TJ had a blast playing with his friend. I was still able to keep Baby E’s schedule.
As I write this, late into the night, the dishes are all cleaned and put away. Until next year…
Here are some pictures from our lunch today:
For now, we are all still enjoying our leftovers and reeling under the effects of tryptophan. Gobble Gobble.
What holidays do you celebrate? Have you ever celebrated something that is traditionally NOT a part of your native culture?