Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines

While the Thanksgiving Day holiday is celebrated primarily by Americans and Canadians, it has spilled over into other countries and societies and I believe this has happened due to the prolonged contact with those countries. I can’t be sure that’s exactly the reason other cultures celebrate Thanksgiving Day — I consider it an educated guess. Regardless, what started out as a religious holiday is now considered a secular holiday as well.

The Thanksgiving Day Turkey

turkey - Thanksgiving Day The original turkey for Thanksgiving Day was actually any bird that could be hunted and eaten. I’m referring to, of course, the first thanksgiving feast at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 (before that part of the now current American continent became part of the United States).

Somewhere along our historical path, the turkey came to prominence as the fowl of choice for eating on Thanksgiving Day (and Christmas Day as well). I don’t know about other societies but most Americans will try to find the biggest turkey they can cook in a conventional oven.

In 2006 (in the Philippines), my wife and I looked for a large turkey for our Thanksgiving Day dinner. The largest turkey we could find back then was barely larger than a Leghorn chicken. It didn’t take long to cook and the three of us (me, my wife and my younger son) consumed everything but the bones. Everything I consider edible, that is.

Other Fixings

I grew up in a large family and our Thanksgiving Day meals were always more than enough to feed 11 or more people at once. Even when the family grew (in-laws, nieces and nephews) to more than double that size, there was always enough and usually many leftovers.

Two huge turkeys were usually the center of attention but we had pumpkin and pecan pies, sweet potatoes and yams (there’s a difference), cranberry sauce, cornbread, hams, fruit salad and all kinds of things I can’t seem to remember now, with huge helpings of giblet gravy to go on top of whatever it went on top of along with the stuffing from the turkeys.

As we got older, some of the Thanksgiving Day items could be bought already prepared from local markets (like pies). The best dishes, however, were always homemade.

Thanksgiving Day 2009

2009 was the first year after 2006 in which we celebrated Thanksgiving Day and we haven’t celebrated it since. My wife was in the United States for it every other year and I won’t celebrate it in the Philippines unless she’s at home.

Strange as it may seem, my wife is the one who insisted on having a Thanksgiving Day dinner in both 2006 and 2009. It was only strange to me, considering my wife is Filipino, until I realized one glaring fact I overlooked until I thought about it for more than a few minutes. My wife moved to the United States when she was only 23 and she’s now 52, which means she has spent more time living in the United States than she has in the Philippines. Perhaps you could consider her a Filipino-American in the truest meaning of the term since she acts more American than I do in many ways.

We’re not celebrating it this year (2013) even though all three of us are in the United States at the same time. We simply don’t want to celebrate it. Unless something changes between today and that day (two days), we’ll just have regular meals. Just me and my wife should be in the Philippines for Thanksgiving Day next year and I seriously doubt we’ll be celebrating the day there since it will just be the two of us.

Sharing the Wealth

One of the unfortunate side effects of cooking a big Thanksgiving Day dinner in the Philippines will be that all of my in-laws will come out of the woodwork, looking for a piece of the action. I know this because it has happened before and not just with turkeys. Whenever my wife cooked her famous chicken enchiladas, beef tostadas, American-style spaghetti (don’t ask about the difference), and other foods in which the delicious odors tended to waft over our compound, we had difficulty keeping people away.

The way they behave, you would think my in-laws have never eaten real food before. I don’t mind sharing as long as we remember to set aside enough for ourselves to make the holiday ordeal worthwhile. The only part that irritates me is when I know they’ve already eaten and I haven’t and they’re more than willing to take more than their fair share. It just isn’t going to happen that way ever again or in other words, it’ll happen over my dead body. When I’m hungry for some turkey, nobody had better get in my way and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the 4th Thursday of November each year (which happens to fall on the same day as my birthday every so often, including 2013). Regardless of how far away or close it is to my birthday, I usually just celebrate my birthday at the same time (but only when I celebrate it). As I get older (and past my prime), I don’t find personal days very important to me anymore.