November 23, 2021
So many of you have asked me to share my thoughts on celebrating Thanksgiving in an Indian household and I had to stop and truly think this one through. I want to be honest, but then I wonder do you really want to hear what it was like? I have such mixed experiences about Thanksgiving Day and what we now call tradition.
When we came to the United States in the 1970s, Thanksgiving was something completely foreign. It was not something we knew anything about. Nor, did we have any family nearby to celebrate with. All of our cousins, aunts, and uncles were in India, England, or Canada. Thanksgiving was a lonely time of year.
We didn't do anything that different because we truly didn't understand too much about the tradition and we really didn't eat turkey - most of our family is vegetarian. I remember being in fifth grade when we moved to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in the house known as the blue house on the street because of the carpeting that we eventually replaced (thank goodness).
Everyone seemed to have someone to celebrate with come Thanksgiving and we really did not. Until one year when my best friend from down the street extended an invitation for me to come to her house and join her family celebrations. And that's when the light bulb went off.
It was eyeopening. There was turkey, there were sides, there was dessert, and there was family. The last part meant a lot, because we were growing up without that layer of comfort that everyone seemed to take for granted. I longed for it and and craved a house filled with relatives.
Eventually, we started celebrating with our friends, our extended Indian family in the United States. One side of the table would be filled with turkey and American sides and the other with Indian food. There was never tandoori turkey - it was a traditional American version that we all loved and craved. The table was a clear sign that we could celebrate our culture but be a part of a new one as well. We could indeed have it all by celebrating both - the old and the new.
Who said you had to pick sides? These days our house is filled with our own immediate family, friends, and good food. We still don't eat turkey, so we make other delicious eats and loads of dessert. And, we are thankful for each other no matter what that tradition has come to mean and no matter who and how many people we have in our home.
And, no matter the year, I always look around for the one or two folks who may not have that house full of food or family to invite over and share our goodwill with. Because someone did that for me and it changed my world!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I truly appreciate you all and I hope you will embrace your family and friends - you are so, so lucky to have one another! And, I am lucky to have all of you.
For some ideas for Thanksgiving, check out these past posts and recipes:
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