Greeting CardsCostumesParty PlanningGift IdeasHolidays

Thanksgiving from a Caribbean Point of View

Updated on January 4, 2017
MsDora profile image

For MsDora—teacher, counselor, mother, and grandmother—holidays and family make the perfect blend for 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 | Source

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.


Thanksgiving Menu Items

Menu Item
American Menu
Caribbean 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

The Food

We enjoy the food, but it is not the main attraction to the American Thanksgiving.

  • Not the turkey; turkey is not a favorite meat in the Caribbean.
  • Not because of the amount of food; Caribbean people know how to spread a feast.

In fact, a Caribbean Thanksgiving has different food items on the menu. To the right 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 mentioned below.


Curry Goat with Rice and Peas - Photo by ChildofMidnight
Curry Goat with Rice and Peas - Photo by ChildofMidnight | Source

(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

Someone is sure to to sound a warning for the Americans not to take their many blessings for granted.

No matter the topic, thanks to God and to each other is certain to be expressed; and 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.


We Plough the Fields and Scatter

First Verse and Chorus

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.

~~~

All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above,

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord

For all His love.

Listen

(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, 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, but also 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; and in some churches, the produce is sold after the service and the proceeds given as a thank offering.

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 to the right.

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 plus 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."


(3) The Legacy

The US Thanksgiving on a national level is rooted in the first American Thanksgiving Festival 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 until 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, 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 Censusreported 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.”

© 2013 Dora Isaac Weithers

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • mts1098 profile image

      mts1098 2 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Ben, you're welcome! Get the experience.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 2 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

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

      Ben

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Samazi, thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      samazi 2 years ago

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      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 profile image

      Ben Zoltak 3 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 3 years ago from western pennsylvania

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

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 3 years ago from County Durham

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      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).

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      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.

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 3 years ago

      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!

    • Elearn4Life profile image

      Darlene Matthews 3 years ago

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      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.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      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!

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      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 profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      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 profile image

      Verily Prime 3 years ago from New York

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

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 3 years ago from India

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My thanksgiving started early with thanks for knowing you!

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • MsDora profile image
      Author

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      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.

    • samazi profile image

      Masimba Mukichi 3 years ago from United Kingdom

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

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      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!