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Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving in Panama

I'm writing this on the Monday following Thanksgiving, so this isn't a "What to do for Thanksgiving" post, but more about how Panamanians I know have begun to embrace our holiday, and some have even made it their own.

This year, prior to the holiday, Panamanian friends and family of mine started calling my mother-in-law, asking if we'd be celebrating this year. They were more excited than I was. We weren't planning to make a big deal out of it the way we did last year, when I put together a bunch of games for the kids and we had a lot of activities going on. We just wanted to have a small get together with family. My mother-in-law makes an out of this world turkey, so I begged her to make the turkey again this year. She didn't disappoint. In addition to the turkey, she made a ham (she makes an amazing ham too), potato salad, arroz con guandu (rice with pigeon peas), and even desserts like pesada de nance (a pudding-like dessert made with a fruit called nance) and tres leches (a moist, three-milk cake).

I had too much going on to add anything to the meal. Plus, last year, no one seemed to like my stuffing and green bean casserole. I plan to bring it back next year though. Hahahaha (evil laugh).

Since I didn't have this blog last year, I thought I'd put a photo of everyone who participated in last year's dinner. It was a great turn out. We had a lot of fun, played a lot of games, and even danced.

Last year's celebration

This year saw many of the same family members at our house. This time, the night was filled with kids playing, my daughters and their cousin putting on a musical performance under their new stage name The Chica Girls, and conversation filled with the usual gossip. A new annual tradition of "Asking Chris why he doesn't speak Spanish yet" was well underway. I tried my best to dodge questioning by introducing the family to my new book, but it didn't work. I was ridiculed most of the night. 

Gloria's out-of-this-world turkey (before it hits the oven)

Another tradition that my Panamanian friends and family have really started to appreciate, is the "Saying thanks for something before the meal" part of Thanksgiving. Usually I start it off, thanking everyone for coming to our house and enjoying the holiday with us. I say everything I'm thankful for, then it goes around the table. Most of it I don't understand since it's in Spanish, but my wife fills me in the best she can. Even the kids get involved. It's a lot of fun and it gives Panamanians, people who are by nature very religious and thankful people, an opportunity to vocally announce all of the things they're thankful for that year. 

This year's celebration

One thing that cracks me up each year, is the making of the potato salad. When the potatoes, carrots, corn, and eggs are being mixed in with the mayonnaise, no one's allowed to speak near it. My wife was doing the stirring this year when I walked into the kitchen and approached. She quickly threw her hands up to warn me to stay away. I had no idea what she was talking about. She turned her head and said, "No talking near the potato salad."

The first time this happened, I thought, "What the hell are they talking about? Is this some sort of religious thing? You can't disrespect the potato salad? Should I take my hat off around it too?" Then she explained to me that when you talk, spit could fly into the potato salad, and any saliva would instantly make it go bad. Makes sense. But if that's the case, why do we talk around any of the food? I'd rather not accidentally get spit in my cereal either. But I've learned...don't say a word when potatoes are in the mix.

A delicious 2012 Thanksgiving dinner

Schools in Panama have started to celebrate the American holiday (at least some of the schools). My daughters go to a Panamanian school (they do have English class) and I was surprised to hear that they were going to have a Thanksgiving party. They go all out here though. One of my daughters was required to bring a baked chicken and paper plates. My other daughter was asked to bring potato salad and plastic cups. That's a full meal. Whatever happened to chips, cookies, soda, and maybe pizza, like when I was in school? 

With the holiday now over, Christmas planning has already begun. I can't wait to get together with family for that holiday too. We have a blast no matter the occasion. 

Thanks for reading,