When I was little, living in Mexico in a small town 60 miles away from Laredo, I used to hear about Thanksgiving celebrations, but it wasn’t until I got to the U.S. that I truly understood its meaning. I want to share my experience on how others view this holiday from the other side of the border and the importance this tradition now means to my family.
In Mexico, it is common to hear people refer to Thanksgiving as “Día del Pavo” (Day of the Turkey) or even say that “the turkey is coming!” as festivities approach. There is no doubt that this celebration it is also important for the Mexicans citizens, especially to those that live in the border because small towns flourish with people coming home to visit their relatives.
Thanksgiving from the other side of the border represents the visit of “paisanos.” Thousands of families take advantage of the four-day weekend and the fact that kids are out of school for the holiday, by traveling to their hometowns or cities to be with parents, siblings, and friends who live in Mexico. In my hometown, Sabinas Hidalgo, there is a lot of movement during this season because many families visit. You can easily spot Texas license plates on the streets, and restaurants and taquerias begin one of their busiest seasons.
Thanksgiving from the other side of the border means party. Here, the Thanksgiving dinner is not the focal point. Instead, during this weekend the best bands and artists offer presentations or “bailes,” and many people choose to marry or have a special celebration because they know family members visiting from the U.S. will be able to assist.
Thanksgiving from the other side of the border means shopping. As it also happens here in America, Thanksgiving is directly associated with Black Friday—one major reason why Mexicans get ready to cross the border and get the best deals. The excitement surrounding the shopping is so intense, that the Mexican government created “Buen Fin” (Good Weekend) in 2011, allowing two days for Mexican companies to offer discounts on their products, usually the weekend before Thanksgiving.
After living in Texas for almost 10 years, I have started to appreciate the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday as it is celebrated here in the U.S. The first time that I was part of a Thanksgiving lunch, was with my coworkers, and with every Thanksgiving celebration that I attend, I further understand that…
Thanksgiving is to give thanks for our lives, health, and families. We give thanks for what we have, but also for what we don’t have. We give thanks for those things that we accomplished during the year, our advancement, and our goals. We give thanks for what we dare to do, for the challenges and dreams that became a reality.
Thanksgiving means being thankful and showing our appreciation to others. It means being thankful to our families for their unconditional love and comprehension. It means being thankful to our friends for being there, for listening to us, for allowing us to be part of their lives. It means being thankful to our coworkers for their patience and tolerance, as well as for the teamwork realized during the year. It means being thankful to our neighbors for every small favor they do for us and for building a community. It means being thankful to that person who says hi to us every day with a smile.
Thanksgiving is remembering the way this celebration started. Before living in the U.S., I didn’t know the origin of Thanksgiving, only that this is a celebration started to give thanks for food. I have learned that Thanksgiving originated as a “harvest festival” where people gave thanks for the harvest, which is why many harvest symbols are associated with it, like pumpkins or scarecrows. The pilgrims arrived in 1620, and during that year the winter hit them hard. The following year, however, the harvest was abundant, and they gave thanks for it. Despite the historical origins of this celebration, it was President Lincoln who officially proclaimed Thanksgiving Day in 1863. However, it wasn’t until 1941 that Congress officially declared it a holiday, to be held on the fourth Thursday of November.
For many of the years I have lived here, I have been part of those “paisanos” who cross the border to see our families. But no matter where we are, we all give thanks and are thankful for this time to be with our loved ones. Now, I understand that Thanksgiving is more than just a celebration, it is a way to live.