Thanksgiving is a special time of year, wouldn’t you agree? It’s a time for us to take a pause from the busy lives we lead and be thankful for the many things we have been given. Let’s take a moment and just think about those things. I know I am personally thankful for my husband, house, job and business just to name a few. Most importantly, I am thankful for my health and having good friends.
Although Thanksgiving is thought of as an American holiday, there has been a long tradition of harvest festivals. Every autumn, the Greeks celebrated a three day festival to honor Demeter, the goddess of corn and grains. The celebration would involve music, parades, food, etc. Unfortunately, due to a lot of media hype on football and partying in today’s world, many people have lost the true meaning of Thanksgiving. In light of that, I would love to share with you how Greek-Americans celebrate Thanksgiving or at least I can share how my family normally celebrated and still does today.
Back in the 1950’s, my mother and her family came over from Greece and were thankful to have a great opportunity in the United States as immigrants. Quickly, Greek-Americans as they came to be known would embrace one of America’s most important holidays, Thanksgiving, because they were proud to be American. They soon learned the meaning of the holiday and honored it as such. Of course like anyone, they enjoyed having the day off as a national holiday but most of all took an interest in the culture/food part of the holiday. In some cases they followed the traditional foods that most Americans would look forward to on Thanksgiving Day, but I remember as a young child how Greek foods still found their way on the table. Here are some of the renditions:
Turkey was definitely the main course, but if we needed another meat favorite, it would be the first choice for Greeks….lamb. Yes, ham may be somewhat present on the table, but lamb would definitely come in as a close second.
The stuffing for the Turkey was usually in the form of rice and raisins. It wasn’t until I had Thanksgiving lunches at school and was old enough to realize that stuffing was really made with bread crumbs not rice and raisins as I grew up to know.
Side items that are traditional for Americans during Thanksgiving were not typical for the Greek-American household. Instead of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and squash, our family usually had spanakopita, tiropita and stuffed cabbage with meat and rice. Of course, any meal would not be complete without a good Greek salad!
For dessert, apple, pecan or pumpkin pies were not normally seen at our Thanksgiving feast. Typically, we would have Greek pastries such as melomacarana, koulourakia and the all-time favorite, baklava! Along with the koulourakia, there had to be Greek coffee served, not American coffee.
In all, Greeks surely do appreciate the meaning of Thanksgiving because it commemorates gratitude, tradition, family and culture, something the Greeks place high on a pedestal. I will always treasure the Greek-American Thanksgiving I have spent with our family celebrating what the Pilgrims brought to America. If you ever have an opportunity to join another culture during Thanksgiving, you definitely should just to see how they celebrate it on American soil. Dynamis Learning Academy, wish all of you a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving holiday! Enjoy your time with family and friends.