Remember how shocking Janet Jackson’s nip-slip at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show was? People gasped, cried, moaned, turned their TVs off, and hid for cover.
Well, I met a similar reaction a few weeks ago inside the InStyle office, where I revealed to my fellow editors that I honestly could do without Thanksgiving. In fact, adding fuel to the fire, I told everyone it’s New Year’s Eve—apparently an evening people abhor—that really tickles my holiday pickle.
Here’s the breakdown: I’m a deeply emotional person, and the gist of Thanksgiving Day is what I’m all about. Yes, every so often we really should pause and reflect on what we’re grateful for. We should stop and tell our cubicle-mate, “Hey! Thanks for not buying stinky food for lunch. I appreciate that.” We should visit our families and apologize for not calling so often. Perhaps we should take a trip to a local homeless shelter and give back to the community.
My family, however, isn’t American. I was born in the United States, but my parents immigrated to this country from Nicaragua, a different country with different traditions, and so the concept of giving thanks for all you have on the fourth Thursday of November each year was a foreign one, not to mention with classic dishes like pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce. “What the hell is stuffing?” my family wondered.
When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I asked my family to implement the holiday into our routine, and so we did. My mom, grandma, and the aunts I grew up with learned how to whip up turkey, mashed potatoes, and freshly baked biscuits, and we would then sit around the dinner table, share a meal, and talk about what we were happy to have.
This continued until I, the youngest of three, moved out at age 21, and then the tradition stopped. The most important holiday for our family is Noche Buena, aka Christmas Eve. What would happen if I ever missed Noche Buena in Miami? Off with my head!
Spanish- and Catholic-influenced Latin Americans all give this evening their own remix, and a large part of the celebration revolves around typical foods like lechón (pork), caja china (a massive pig-roasting box), lots of rice, lots of carbs, lots of drinking, and a ton of dancing. There’s nothing subtle about it, and if you’re looking for a visual, imagine giving Thanksgiving a party-fueled upgrade, gratitude included.
My older brother and sister each celebrate the traditional American Thanksgiving with their now-extended families. We’re all American, and so it’s part of our culture. My parents and their Nicaraguan-American siblings, however, do not. Yes, we may have celebrated Thanksgiving each year, but it wasn’t a tradition that stuck. They were doing to help me assimilate into the culture of this country, not because it was particularly important to them.
So what do I do come the fourth Thursday of November? The holiday is hugely important to my boyfriend, and so we happily fly to Florida or Tennessee to spend the day with his family, cook way too much food, and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s fun, it’s cozy, and each year I feel grateful for the new family whose traditions I’ve adopted as my own. While he and his mom Pam cook in the kitchen together, I step away and give my mom a call to tell her I love her.
So it’s not exactly that I hate Thanksgiving, it’s just that it’s not a holiday that my family and I celebrated naturally. It felt forced. If it weren’t for my boyfriend, I’d likely stay in New York City, where I live, each year and host a Friendsgiving for those closest to me.
Yes, I’m looking forward to topping off my pumpkin pie with whipped cream this Thursday. But let’s not get it twisted: what’s really calling my name is a cut of lechón with a side of rice and several coconut-rum cocktails come Noche Buena.