Thanksgiving From a Caribbean Point of View - Holidappy - Celebrations
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Thanksgiving From a Caribbean Point of View

For Ms. Dora—teacher, counselor, mother, and grandmother—holidays and family make the perfect blend of good times and pleasant memories.

The American Thanksgiving is a meaningful event which every culture should covet; and it is not difficult to find other immigrants who share my Caribbean point of view.

Caribbean Map showing the Leeward Islands to the far right

Caribbean Map showing the Leeward Islands to the far right

Disclaimer

“Caribbean immigrants may be black, white, Latino, East Indian, Chinese, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc, thus it is quite difficult to make broad generalizations of this unique group.” - Palash Ghosh (International Business Times)

This author's knowledge of Caribbean life is limited to the English-speaking “small islands” labelled Leeward Islands on the right side of the map.

The Food

We enjoy the food, but it is not the main attraction of the American Thanksgiving. Turkey is not a popular meat in the Caribbean, but the Caribbean people do know how to spread a feast.

In fact, a Caribbean Thanksgiving has a variety food items on the menu. Below is a comparison of foods on the Kroger Thanksgiving dinner menu and foods on a Caribbean harvest (Thanksgiving) menu.

The comparison is intended only to show that, since the American menu does not have our favorite foods, there must be other attractive features, three of which are the gathering, the significance and the legacy.

Thanksgiving Menu Items

Menu ItemAmerican MenuCaribbean Menu

Meat

Turkey and Sliced Ham

Curry Goat and Jerk Chicken

Main Dish

Mashed Potatoes

Rice and Beans

Optional Dishes

Potatoes Au Gratin or Sweet Potato Soufflé

Fried Plantains or Steamed Cabbage

Dessert (not on menu)

Pumpkin Pie

Sweet Potato (Boniata) Pudding

Curry Goat With Rice and Peas

Photo by ChildofMidnight

Photo by ChildofMidnight

1. The Gathering

The gathering of family and friends certainly has its appeal for Caribbean people. With or without the presence of food, we share generous amounts of conversation and laughter. On Thanksgiving Day in America, whether or not the gathering is a combination of Americans and Caribbean islanders, there will be a diversity of topics discussed:

  • Memories of past events and news of coming events in the islands
  • The comparison of American and Caribbean life—foods, cost of living etc.
  • Births, marriages, deaths
  • The difference between football and soccer
  • The complexity of American politics
  • The opportunities you get only in America

2. The Significance

The Caribbean individual (like people elsewhere) offers his or her prayer of thanks to God on a daily basis, but the formal celebration for Thanksgiving in the Caribbean is usually a religious community affair. It is often in a weekend church service, not a household event on a weekday.

From a Caribbean point of view, the Thanksgiving family gathering is not only a social event; it is more of a spiritual event.

In the Caribbean Thanksgiving service (Harvest Celebration), people bring healthy samples of their crops and lay them around the church altar. They give thanks for the harvest. In some churches, the produce is sold after the service and the proceeds are given as an offering of thanks.

We Plough the Fields and Scatter, written by Matthias Claudius 1782 (also known as All Good Gifts) is a regular song on the program. It is interesting that Caribbean people sing the line about snow as enthusiastically as they sing the rest of the song. See the lyrics below and listen to a choral rendition.

After years of singing about snow while only imagining it, it is significant to the Caribbean experience to celebrate the US Thanksgiving in a climate that at least promises snow. The cool temperature and the beautiful fall colors on leaves signal the difference in the weather.

After an American Thanksgiving, there is also a difference in the magnitude of our thanks. We include territories both American and Caribbean when we sing in the chorus about "all good gifts around us."

We Plough the Fields and Scatter

First Verse

We plough the fields, and scatter / The good seed on the land;

But it is fed and watered / By God's almighty hand:

He sends the snow in winter, / The warmth to swell the grain,

The breezes and the sunshine, / And soft refreshing rain.

Chorus

All good gifts around us / Are sent from heaven above,

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord / For all His love.

Listen

No matter the topic, thanks to God and to each other is certain to be expressed. In the process of counting their blessings, someone is sure to sound a warning for the Americans not to take their many blessings for granted.

3. The Legacy

The US Thanksgiving on a national level is rooted in the first American Thanksgiving thrown by the Pilgrims who left Plymouth, England in 1620 in search of civil and religious freedom. Following their first Thanksgiving for their bountiful harvest of crops in 1621, other annual celebrations followed. In 1941, the American Congress established the fourth Thursday of each November as a national holiday.

Gratitude to God for the preservation of life, for the protection of crops, and for the supply of daily sustenance is an American legacy which influences nations all over the world. The Caribbean gets its share of influence.

  • The 2009 American Census reported 3.5 million Caribbean immigrants from more than 20 Caribbean countries.
  • Roughly 1.2 million children had at least one Caribbean parent.

Through these immigrants and their children, the American legacy of Thanksgiving passes to Caribbean regions. On their return to their island homes, they may not celebrate in the same way as they do in America, but they will still sing with meaning “God Bless America.”

Questions & Answers

Question: Why do people in the Caribbean indulge in an American holiday?

Answer: I'm interpreting your question to mean: Why do Caribbean people indulge in an American holiday (namely, Thanksgiving).

This is my personal perspective, and I'm sure that other Caribbean people think the same way. Thanksgiving is a great idea, starting with the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians who shared an autumn harvest feast which is considered one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. Everyone has something to be thankful for, and when the Americans are giving thanks, we feel grateful enough to join them.

© 2013 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 13, 2014:

MTS, how sweet! I appreciate you. Thanks and the best to you and yours.

mts1098 on November 12, 2014:

You have a knack for bringing home the main idea and what a great choice this hub is...I love the comparison of the two cultures and the simplicity of yours...I will remember this on our thanksgiving and will say a special prayer for the crops in your area...cheers

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 25, 2014:

Ben, you're welcome! Get the experience.

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on October 25, 2014:

Thanks for the education! And for inviting us into your world!

Ben

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 21, 2014:

Samazi, thank you for reading and commenting.

samazi on October 21, 2014:

Msdora your piece is brilliant.The. Caribbean recipe made me salivate. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 21, 2014:

Thanks for your comment, Ben. If you browse my titles, you will see there's nothing about cooking. What does that say? Caribbeans swim and dance not necessarily related to our Harvest Thanksgiving--a church day, not a weekday holiday.

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on October 20, 2014:

I enjoyed your window for us into a Caribbean Thanksgiving! Now tell me, how do you stuff a goat? ;o)

I kid of course, I wonder if there is exercise after the meal? We play American football, do Caribbeans swim after? Dance?

Well done piece!

Ben

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 20, 2014:

Handyman, we celebrate the concept of thanksgiving more than the "holiday." Thanks for reading and commenting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 20, 2014:

Colleen, thanks for your honest comment. "All about the food." It might be for us too, but our Harvest/Thanksgiving is primarily a church service.

Bill from Greensburg Pennsylvania on October 20, 2014:

It is always interesting to see how other people celebrate holidays. It is great to see how other people celebrate. Great hub.

Colleen Swan from County Durham on October 20, 2014:

Interesting to read about another culture adapting to USA tradition. Myself originally from the USA, for me it's all about the food.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 20, 2014:

Patty, thank you very much for your kind comment. The American Thanksgiving has important significance for me. I will miss it very much this year, but I will still give thanks for being in the Caribbean with my mother.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 20, 2014:

This one of the best Hubs on Thanksgiving I have seen and I enjoy reading about the Caribbean. Many thanks to you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 20, 2014:

Lori, I would have a seat for you on any day of the year. Check out the Caribbean cruises and stop by to visit. Thank you for your love and support.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on October 19, 2014:

Fascinating and may I just say, I much prefer the sound of the Caribbean menu than the American. I like the American, but I am so done with mashed spuds and gravy, and yams with marshmallows. I know, blaspheme, right? I have changed my eating habits for the last couple of years and I would prefer something new and different. If there is an extra seat at your table this year Dora, I hope I am welcome to stop by (sink).

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 08, 2013:

RT, it's wonderful to hear about your interest in Caribbean radio and people. Happy thanksgiving to you, wherever you are.

RTalloni on November 08, 2013:

Interesting, and thanks for the heartwarming picture of a Caribbean Thanksgiving. Many here, at least of those I know, return the sentiment with love, care, appreciation and more for Caribbeans! We support Radio Lighthouse and love to hear and read about and sometimes meet the people of the regions.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 08, 2013:

Happy thanksgiving, Frank. thank you for your encouraging comment.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on November 08, 2013:

thank you Msdora for sharing this..educational.. informative and well presented hub.. happy thanksgiving

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 06, 2013:

Hi DeBorrah, I like the idea of each one giving personal thanks. Thank you for sharing and encouraging. Peace and Blessings to you, also.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 06, 2013:

Elearn4Life, thanks for your encouraging comment. Happy Holidays to you, too!

DeBorrah K Ogans on November 06, 2013:

Ms Dora, Lovely hub! You have given us further insight and educated us as to how the Caribbean Culture celebrates 'Thanksgiving!" Marvelous!

As you well stated: "From a Caribbean point of view, the Thanksgiving family gathering is not only a social, but also a spiritual event." Wonderful!

I so agree with this! As part of our family tradition everyone gathers around the table and each person is encouraged to share something that they are Thankful for! Peace & Blessings!

Darlene Matthews on November 06, 2013:

Thanks for that short vacation away:) It's nice to learn about other cultures. Gratitude is the same everywhere. Happy Holiday Season!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 06, 2013:

Thanks, Marlene. Have a wonderful, significant thanksgiving this year and always!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 06, 2013:

Ep, thanks for your comment. I'm sure there are enough nutritious, tasty dishes on both menus to satisfy you.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 05, 2013:

I really enjoy traveling to the islands through reading your articles which are very fulfilling. Thanksgiving is indeed a wonderful time of year, and not just for the food, but as you say, for the gathering, significance, and legacy.

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on November 05, 2013:

Great hub! Since I am a vegetarian I wouldn't eat the meat, but the main dish, optional dishes and dessert sound fantastic. Very interesting!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 05, 2013:

Thank you, DDE. There's much more to the menus - both American and Caribbean. So much food should inspire so much praise and thanks to God.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 05, 2013:

Faith, thank you for your beautiful comment. Of course, the event is all about thanks to God for all His blessings. That is what makes it a universal appeal.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 05, 2013:

Verily Prime, thanks for reading. I saw that picture and I couldn't resist. It got my salivary glands going too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 05, 2013:

My Cook book, thank you for your comment. Happy that you liked what I shared.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 04, 2013:

American Thanksgiving from a Caribbean Point of View a very interesting insight to this tradition, and sounds a unique idea. A beautiful time of the year and all cultures deserve to show off their cuisines. Great hub and well introduced.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on November 04, 2013:

Oh ... MsDora, I really enjoyed this beautifully written and very interesting hub here as to this special time of year to give that extra thanks for all His many blessings. I am thrilled to learn of American Thanksgiving from the Caribbean point of view! What a beautiful time, as you say, it is really not about the food, really, but a time to gather and have fellowship with friends and family and share. I loved reading about the Harvest Celebration and listening to the beautiful video ... yes, the snow! What a truly lovely celebration indeed.

This is a very special hub here you have written. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the Caribbean culture with the influence of the American Thanksgiving. Yes, we should never forget just how blessed we are ... God bless you too!

Up and more and sharing

Faith Reaper

Verily Prime from New York on November 04, 2013:

Long time I have seen pudding - thanks for whetting my appetite...

Dil Vil from India on November 04, 2013:

Really cool, i had a good read and useful hub. Thank you for the same, VOTED UP.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2013:

Sheila, thank you for your encouraging comment. Giving thanks, first to God helps us recognize that all of our blessings come from Him.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2013:

Flourish, immigrants realize how easy it can be for Americans to take their blessings for granted. Thanksgiving should be a natural response from them - from all of us. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2013:

Samazi, that curry goat will do it! Hope you really enjoy the items on your holiday menu. Thank you for your comment.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 04, 2013:

My thanksgiving started early with thanks for knowing you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2013:

Eric, I can imagine that yours is a very tasty combination. We all like to give thanks while enjoying the food we really like. Different cultures, different foods.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2013:

Bill, I appreciate your comment. Wish we would all see it the way you do.

sheilamyers on November 04, 2013:

Thanks for sharing your traditions for Thanksgiving. I think many of us could learn a valuable lesson from your hub and get back to the original meaning and purpose for the day - giving thanks to God for our many blessings.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 04, 2013:

I enjoyed reading about Caribbean culture and both the differences and similarities to American Thanksgiving. Even within the US, we have different foods and traditions shared during Thanksgiving. I specifically liked the "sound the warning" notice. It's so important not to take for granted what we have.

Masimba Mukichi from United Kingdom on November 04, 2013:

Thanks,MsDora for the informative article.It made me salivate when I read about the Caribbean recipe to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 04, 2013:

Very cool. Our home is a combination of the menus --- not from the islands. But very similar to our Vietnamese cuisine.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 04, 2013:

I love articles like this one where I learn about another culture. I think it is so important that we take the time to learn about each other; as we break down the walls of ignorance we build up the walls of brotherhood. :) Well done Dora!