Latinos Have Their Own Thanksgiving Traditions, Here’s a List!
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, meant to celebrate the (not so sweet) origins of our country. Although the history of this holiday is much less savory than turkey dinner, its message of gratitude is a positive one, and ain’t nothing wrong with a day devoted to food. Plus, the definition of “American” is rich and complex—and Latinx folks have roots that go much further back in our country’s history than the very first Thanksgiving. So…if Thanksgiving is an American celebration, it is definitely a Latinx celebration, and you don’t know Thanksgiving til you’ve indulged in some of these Latinx traditions.
Pairing a pernil with the turkey.
Pernil is also popular around Navidad, but it’s not unusual to see one alongside the usual turkey. As either a pork roast or pork shoulder, this bad boy is marinated overnight and slow roasted for ultimate tenderness and flavor. IMO, the pernil is much more mouthwatering than that big stuffed bird—that is, unless the turkey is a serious pavochon (adobo and extra meat, anyone?).
Stuffing the turkey with chorizo or bacon or beef—or ALL OF THE ABOVE.
That’s right—no bland bread-based stuffings in this bird. A proper Latinx turkey comes with ALLLL the meat (usually pork, though: pavo/turkey, lechon/pork). Not only can you create a delicious stuffing with this meaty mixture, but you can prepare the turkey as though it were a roast suckling pig, slathering it with adobo, sazon, garlic, and oregano. Buenísimo.
Serving some kind of rice as a side dish.
The stereotypical Thanksigiving menu comes with a lot of sides, but rice isn’t usually one of them (at least, not in non-Latinx homes). It’s definitely typical to see some type of rice—arroz verde, arroz con gandules, arroz amarillo, arroz con leche (though we’ll get to that later)—squeezed onto that very full, very tantalizing table.
Bringing mashed potatoes and/or mofongo.
Latinx families are broad and super diverse, hailing from all over North, South, and Central America. While they definitely bring their own cultural flavor to the Thanksgiving meal, dinner might still involve things like mashed potatoes. But how do you think mashed potatoes stand up to mofongo, that scrumptious, salty smash of fried plantain, garlic, and olive oil? We know the answer, but it’s also nice to have options.
Dressing up just to sit together in la sala all night.
Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows what everyone looks like sin arreglarse. Sometimes no one even leaves the house all day. Still, it’s somehow important to look nice for all the tíos.
Chismeando, chismeando, chismeando.
This is obvious—what’s a holiday without gossip? Of course, everyone is talking a million miles a minute (almost definitely in Spanglish), reminiscing and telling stories and catching up. But that sweet, sweet chisme—it’s the bread and butter (well, the pan de bono) of the whole conversation. It’s sustenance, baby, and it never runs out.
Drinking a TON of alcohol. Seriously…a lot of it.
Coquito? Tequila? Poncha caliente? Pisco sours? Refajo? Depends on what tu familia prefers, but those glasses are always full of some kind of boozy goodness. Thanksgiving is a time for gathering and recognizing all the things there are to be thankful for—for spending quality time with your loved ones. But for Latinx families, it’s also the perfect reason to throw a raucous fiesta.
Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, too.
For the niños (or those who don’t drink), there is no shortage of traditional non-alcoholic concoctions at the Thanksgiving feast. From champurrado to atole de arroz, the options are limitless and perfectly seasonal—these potions warm you to your soul.
Bailando, bailando, bailando.
No matter what you’re drinking, you are probably dancing along with everyone else. Throughout the whole preparation of the meal, and the many hours after, la casa is bumping with salsa and bachata. The true champions are the tíos and primos and even los abuelos who can dance with a plate full of food in one hand, and a glass full of something in the other. Thanksgiving is lit, y’all.
Replacing stereotypical Thanksgiving desserts with an abundance of Latinx treats.
Oh, yeah. Like the arroz con leche mentioned above, Thanksgiving desserts in Latinx households are the cherry on top of a truly magical meal. Instead of pies—pumpkin, apple, pecan, whatever—think flan (of any variety), turrón, churros, guava paste, pastel de tres leches, dulce de zapallo (and the list goes on and on). No matter how stuffed you are from dinner, there is always room for some of this good good.
No matter how your family celebrates, make sure to enjoy Thanksgiving with the people you love. Eat incredible food, drink yummy beverages, and dance the night away!