Standard Party Foods

Thanksgiving Was Not the Über-Holiday for Us

It is November, and I am barreling headlong into the end of the year. But first, I have to make it past the Thanksgiving table.

Growing up working-class and Filipino here in the U.S., Thanksgiving has never felt to me like a real holiday. Or rather, it has never as big a deal to me as to my Anglo and African-American friends, whose families have lived here for generations. Not because it’s a secular holiday with its own mythology, because it’s easy enough to give it a religious backdrop. You could even say that, as Catholics, we celebrate Thanksgiving at every Mass; after all, that’s what Eucharist means.

In our house, though, Thanksgiving was just another day off from school or work. We really could NOT have cared less about the parades or football. Whether we invited friends over or went to some other Filipino family’s home, we had the standard big fiesta meal which was virtually indistinguishable from any other fancy special occasion spread. All the standard party foods were there: from lumpia (the egg rolls) to pancit (like lo mein) and lechon (roast pig) parked right next to the bottomless rice cooker, not to mention all the labor-intensive desserts one could ever want. The only difference was that the poor pig, mouth gagged open with an apple, was bumped from its normal place of honor at the center of the table by a humongous turkey, glowing as brown as George Hamilton.

It always felt a little fake. Not padded-bra fake, but the turkey was clearly an add-on. Even if it tasted good, the whole production felt like something we had to do in order to check off the box on the “Are You American Enough?” quiz.