Thanksgiving Day with Hispanic flavor

Día de Reyes, Dia de los Muertes and of course, Christmas, are some of the many holidays celebrated by Hispanic immigrants living in the United States. But Thanksgiving? Many people, especially immigrants from the Hispanic community, think that this celebration is only for North Americans. 

However, once in the United States, many immigrants adopt the celebration and sometimes add a definitive Hispanic flavor. So, if you ever get invited to a Thanksgiving celebration in a Latino home, don’t expect the traditional mix of turkey, mashed potatoes and lots of (American) football. You probably are going to find beans, tortillas, posole (a traditional soup or stew from Mexico) or, if your host is from Venezuela or Colombia, arepas.

In Spanish, Thanksgiving Day is known as “Día de Acción de Gracias” or “Día de Dar Gracias.”

Most immigrants like myself discover Día de Acción de Gracias upon coming to live in the United States. However, thanks to movies and social media, more and more people outside of the country already know that Thanksgiving Day is a big celebration in the states.

In my case, the first time I heard of this celebration was when I moved to the United States 22 years ago, and my host family, who was also from Colombia, cooked a big meal with a lot of Colombian dishes -- but also with a big turkey as a main dish. Since then, I have tried to keep similar traditions with my own family.

Judith Ramirez, a parishioner from St. Catherine of Siena in Wake Forest who was born in Mexico, was totally unaware of the Thanksgiving Day tradition until she came to Raleigh 28 years ago to live with her husband, David.

"I like to celebrate that day here with the family because my children were born here, and we need to adapt and celebrate with them," Judith said.

Judith, who has six children, three boys and three girls, said that each year their celebration usually begins by going to Mass to give thanks, followed by a meal.

Although the meal includes turkey, it cannot be without some authentic Mexican dishes like posole or tamales. And it they can, they like to dance after the meal, she said.

"We like to have the traditional American turkey but also add some dishes like posole because my daughters love it," she explained.

As many families are preparing to give thanks, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama recorded a Thanksgiving video message to all of the families in the diocese. During his message in Spanish, he explained the importance of taking part in the Thanksgiving Day celebration, even though many of us were not born here.

Bishop Luis Rafael said although Thanksgiving Day is not part of our Hispanic celebration, we as Latinos welcome any occasion to celebrate! But as we are in a country that offers this day called Thanksgiving, the important thing is to learn to enjoy the company of each other and to share in the richness and diversity that makes us a family.

“Thanks for life, family, food and for traditions. May the Lord bless you and enjoy your Thanksgiving,” concluded Bishop Zarama.

¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

Watch the bishop's video message in Spanish or English