Today is the third Thursday of November. In Japan, that's all it
is--the third Thursday of November.
In Hawaii and in California, the most important people in the world to
me are getting together for an evening of feasting on delicious, down
home Filipino-American(-and more) fusion food.
I don't usually get nostalgic and sentimental for things of the past,
but all this talk of Thanksgiving in my classes (as per my
co-teachers' request) has got me all sappy and thinking about family
I browsed pictures of big dining tables covered from end to end with
various trays of hot and savory dishes and dinner plates brimming
with five or six different colored foods all side by side, each dish
dripping its flavor onto the border of its neighboring dish.
This typical American-style meal is very different from the set meals
of little bowls and little plates in a Japanese-style meal. I kinda miss American-style eating. Also, you
can't eat mashed potatoes with chop sticks, so I haven't come across
restaurant lately that serves mashed potatoes. I miss mashed potatoes. Damn, I
miss mashed potatoes. With garlic. And butter.
I miss the Angeles-Abalos-style Thanksgiving. The families get
together at 3:00 p.m. (because the moms agreed that we'd get together at
12:00 and the Abalos family is always 3 hours late), which is when we
start eating "dinner". We lay out all the serving platters of lumpia,
pancit, some kind of fish, maybe turkey, definitely mashed potatoes,
some kind of beef, some kind of salad, and always, always, always our
moms' special recipe for what we call Korean chicken (most likely no
relation whatsover to Korea, be it North or South). We begin eating
dinner in the afternoon, rest a bit, maybe have some dessert of
cheesecake or fruit salad, and then repeat this cycle of eat and rest
for the rest of the evening and into the late night. Us "kids"
entertain ourselves in various ways, depending on how old we are that
year. Parents always watch The Filipino Channel and talk and laugh
loudly downstairs in the family room. Thanksgiving was always with
family. Thanksgiving always promised lots, and lots, and lots... of
food. Lots, even for a Filipino party.
In my Thanksgiving lesson, I taught students not about Pilgrims and
Indians, but about being thankful. I handed out "placemats" to the
students, on which they thought about and wrote down things they are
thankful for. We sat at a "dining table" (desks pushed together) in
groups of about six students and laid out a table cloth, knives and
forks, cups, and the placemats.
Some students were excited to start "eating". They had drawn and wrote
down foods that they wanted to eat on their placemats (there was a
picture of a plate on the placemats next to the space where they wrote
what they are thankful for). Some students quickly picked up their
knives and forks before they were given directions. "Wait! Not yet!" I
said--fake frantically "We have to give thanks". This is a familiar
tradition to Japanese people because before every meal, they say
"itadakimasu", which basically means "thank you for this meal".
One by one, students went around the dinner table and said "I'm
thankful for... my family, my friends, my teachers, my soccerball..."
Then, we started to "eat"! I taught students how to use a knife and
fork. They were amazed at the fact that Americans don't pick up their
plates and bring it closer to their mouths to eat. They were amazed
that we load up our plates from a serving dish in the middle of the
table. We had a convesation about what we were eating for Thanksgiving
(practice dialogue: "What are you eating for Thanksgiving? I'm eating
_____."). Afterwards, we played some games related to giving thanks
and vocabulary words around the dinner table ("Please pass the
butter!" "Sure, here you go!"). The lesson was fun, lively, and
In between classes, I sat at my desk and planned out the (belated)
Thanksgiving feast that I'm going to host for my ex-pat friends out
here. I'm planning on cooking chicken adobo, vegetarian Thai green
curry, mashed potatos, basil toast, and some kind of salad. One friend
is bringing pecan pie. I don't know what other people are bringing
yet, but something about the thought of so much and so many different
kinds of food all together for one feast picked up my spirits even
I'm so grateful to my parents for making traditions for my family
throughout our childhood. We don't have any reason to celebrate
Thanksgiving -- I come from a family of first-generation immigrants --
but I'm glad that we did anyway. I miss those dinners so much that it
made me well up in the middle of the day, in the middle of the staff
room, while I was describing this tradition to one of my coworkers.
With Thanksgiving weekend only being four days long and members of the
Angeles and Abalos families living in three different parts of the
world, there's no telling when the entire Angeles and Abalos clan will
be together again for a Thanksgiving dinner.
I'm finding though, that sharing my traditions with my students and
new friends is helping to ease the homesickness, as well as preparing
for a big meal, practicing cooking, sharing meals, and starting
traditions of my own. I guess these are all things that I can take
with me anywhere I go, even when I am separated from family.
Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving :)