By Gel Santos Relos
Papaano ba nagsimula ang pagdiriwang ng Thanksgiving sa America? Ano ang style ng celebration ng mga Pinoy dito? Ikaw, what are you thankful for this year? Ano ang ipinapagpasalamat mo sa Diyos?
Many Filipinos who are new in the US are amazed at how important Thanksgiving Day is to Americans.
While the predominantly Christian Pinoys in the Philippines look forward to Christmas as our big day for family reunions, the more diverse American people really mark Thanksgiving Day as that day in a year when family and friends of different faith and social backgrounds travel far distances just to celebrate and express gratitude and appreciation to God, family and friends and for blessings of material possessions and relationships.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving was a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, tracing back to the time of the Pilgrims who left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620 to head to the New World that is America, in search of both civil and religious liberties.
After more than two months of navigating the rough seas aboard Mayflower-A 17th Century sailing vessel, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts in late November, and sought a suitable landing place. On December 11, just before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the "Mayflower Compact" - America's first document of civil government and the first to introduce self-government.”
The Pilgrims faced the harsh and bitter cold New England winter, which brought about starvation and sickness, causing the death of nearly half of them before Spring. Yet, they persevered in prayer, and with the help of American Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer.
The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), historians say it was America's first Thanksgiving Festival.
According to Thanksgiving-day.org, there is no evidence to prove if the customary turkey was a part of the initial feast. According to the firsthand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries etc. Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first Thanksgiving feast. Pilgrims however, did have boiled pumpkin. Diminishing supply of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread.
In 1789, America celebrated its first Thanksgiving Day following a proclamation issued by President George Washington under the new Constitution. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanksgiving.
Over the next seventy-five years, Presidents followed Lincoln's precedent, annually declaring a national Thanksgiving Day. However, it was not until December 26, 1941 that a bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- making Thanksgiving a national holiday and setting it to the fourth (but not final) Thursday in November.
Today, the holiday of Thanksgiving fills people with memories of families gathering together, giving thanks to God for all the blessing received in the past year, and feasting over the traditional roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, herb stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and eggnog or apple cider.
Filipino families in America create a yummy fusion of the traditional feast with Filipino cuisine, substituting roast chicken (lechon manok) or chicken relleno as the star of the feast, but bigger family or community gatherings always give the traditional lechon the center stage. The usual hamon, kaldereta, pastel, embotido, morcon, adobo, menudo, pancit, lumpia, karekare, crispy pata , leche flan, ube, cassava cake, buko pandan, always get requested during potlucks as well to complete the multi-cultural celebration of Thanksgiving.
In this era of consumerism, however, the “After-Thanksgiving Sale’ has become as popular as the feast. People line up in the wee hours of the morning to avail of doorbusting deals, hoping to get the biggest discounts for their Christmas/holiday gift shopping.
Of course for us, Pinoys, stretching their hard-earned dollar means more presents to stuff the balikbayan box with -- to be sent to their families in the Philippines as aguinaldo. For some enterprising Pinoys, the big discounts during this sale period mean a bigger profit margin when they resell what their bargain goodies either here in America or in the Philippines!
In the midst of our celebrations, parties,reunions, parades and serious shopping,however, Christiananswers.net reminds Americans to “retain the original gratefulness to God displayed by the Pilgrims and many other founding fathers , and remember that it is to those early and courageous Pilgrims that they owe not only the traditional Thanksgiving holiday but also the concepts of "hardwork" ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith.”
Happy Thanksgiving, mga Kababayan. Let us remember to count our blessings, and to always look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty -- no matter what the circumstances are. God bless us always!