Celebrating Thanksgiving as a non-Canadian (American) Family

31 October 2013

Thanksgiving is a big holiday both in Canada and USA. Some would say it's the biggest, most widely accepted holiday of the year. Coming from Nigeria however, Thanksgiving has never held a lot of meaning for me. The same cannot be said for my kids. For all intents and purposes, my kids are more Canadian than Nigerian and they are at the age of being conscious of national holidays and wanting to celebrate those holidays at home like typical Canadians.

So the question becomes; how do you celebrate a holiday that is foreign to you? Here are my tips:

Simple Pumpkin Centerpiece
  • Decorate for the holiday. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. A fireplace or dining table is always a good spot for simple seasonal decorations like wreaths, table runners, candles and centerpieces. For this thanksgiving, I had a simple fall-themed runner on the table as well as a pumpkin centerpiece. These two items cost me less than $20 in total but contributed immensely to the celebratory vibe.
  • Celebrate the day and make it special in whatever way your family celebrates holidays. This could be with friends, at a public place that has special festivities or with an elaborate meal at home. We chose to have a fancy lunch at home. 
  • Encourage the excitement by having kids participate in decorating and preparations for the big day. I took my kids shopping for pumpkins which they decorated for the table centerpiece. 
  • Learn about how Canadians/Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and then decide which parts of their practices will be incorporated into your family's celebration. For this thanksgiving, I learnt to make cranberry sauce and some pumpkin dishes (specifically pumpkin pancakes and muffins) as these were the easiest dishes for me to replicate with having a kitchen disaster. We also embraced the practice of going round the table and everyone saying what they were thankful for.
  • Make dishes that most members of the family can enjoy. Don't duplicate the full American thanksgiving menu if none of you will enjoy it. Get feedback from your family beforehand if necessary. Asking my kids about the menu led to me substituting roasted potatoes with fried plantains. 
  • If your kids are picky eaters, let them participate in the shopping and meal preparation. Kids are more likely to eat something they helped prepare. My kids were excited to play a big role in making the cranberry sauce and they ate it with gusto
  • Incorporate parts of your home culture into the menu and/or activities so that it becomes your own unique family experience. Our menu did not just consist of the typical turkey and cranberry sauce fare, we also included jollof rice and plantain which made it a very Nigerian-Canadian Thanksgiving
Simple sides for a Nigerian-Canadian Thanksgiving
What say you, do you have any ideas for making Thanksgiving more meaningful for your multicultural family? 

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