Growing up I saw images of Thanksgiving on television and in movies of these small families getting together at the dinner table, eating turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Everyone sat at the table with their nice sweaters while the dad carves the turkey. I always thought it must be nice to have a dinner like that. However, Thanksgiving for Filipino families was entirely different. Our family hosted Thanksgiving most years but it didn’t look anything like those Norman Rockwell pictures. Instead our long dining table was piled with traditional Filipino dishes of pancit, lumpia, pan de sal and ham. It was always more of a potluck and a plethora of all kinds of multicultural food rather than a big turkey bird with sides. Actually most of our Thanksgiving celebrations didn’t even involve a turkey since Filipinos aren’t big on turkey. We didn’t sit around the table because there was no way 50 Filipinos plus all of our extended friends and family could sit at one table together. Instead we were all gathered in different areas of the house- the backyard, the living room, the family room, dining room and the kitchen. We didn’t have fall colors or wear sweaters when it was 80 degrees in Southern California.
Now that I’m married, I’ve spent four Thanksgivings in Ohio. Thanksgiving looks, feels, and tastes different. There are vibrant red and orange leaves falling off trees, crisp cool weather and definitely a big Thanksgiving turkey with all the traditional American sides. There’s lots of football watching and the whole family gathers around to watch Ohio State v Michigan in their Michigan gear. (Which by the way I had no idea about any of this until I met my husband). It is an authentic American experience.
Although the celebrations are different I think the reasoning behind the celebrations are similar. We all come together on Thanksgiving to spend time with family and relatives. Being married for over a year now I’ve realized that our interfaith, interracial marriage really works for us. Being Filipino and Catholic, Christmas is the real deal for us. We put up our tree and decorations before Thanksgiving and I can’t wait get into the holiday spirit! Thanksgiving will always be spent in Ohio with my husband’s family and Christmas will always be spent with my family in Chicago. I will say that Christmas is when I really notice the difference of not having all my relatives around. We aren’t traveling from house to house and rushing off from place to place to see more relatives. I don’t have all my cousins, aunts (titas) and uncles (titos) around for the holidays and I truly miss them all. But now my family is starting to create our own traditions. That to me is what the holidays are all about, creating traditions to celebrate with each passing year and building memories with loved ones.