An African Thanksgiving in America

I had this great idea. I thought that it would be fun to give you a glimpse of what a (West) African Thanksgiving looks like in America, since Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the U.S. Then, I changed my mind. Then, I changed it back again. That's usually how my writing process goes.

Disclaimer: This post is (somewhat heavily) laden with a considerable amount of Sarcasm. Any attempt to take everything seriously will lead to frustration  and/or eye roll at the writer. It's best enjoyed after a tryptophan-induced nap. 


Ah, Thanksgiving. I must say, Thanksgiving is probably my parents' favorite American holiday. It's smack dab between the holiday that encourages "Devil-worshipping" and one  that is Jesus's birthday, but out of which most people try to eliminate Jesus as much as possible. (Sidenote: If you want to understand why African parents are so against Halloween...and Harry Potter, watch a Nigerian movie or two...the scary ones). For them, Thanksgiving is pure. It's about giving Thanks to God. Of course, there's the Friday after. But you know, at least on Thursday, we give thanks.

The rules of Thanksgiving  with my West African Family

1. He (or She) who hosts the Thanksgiving event must be in charge of the turkey. This includes everything from purchase to its arrival to the family table.

2. African clothing must be worn to said event. Even if the cold has already set in or there is snow on the ground, legwarmers and long-sleeve shirts can and should be worn under  aforementioned clothes.

3. Turkey is present at the meal, so that the American-born children can tell their American classmates that they have, indeed, celebrated Thanksgiving. While the traditional American turkey takes center stage and plays a recurring role at this gastronomic event, its supporting cast consists of: Jollof Rice (or in French, Riz au Gras), Fufu and soup, fried yam and fish. Couscous and Attieke play understudy to each other, depending on the year. Fanta and Malta are right next to the apple cider and the wine.

4. There is no going around the table saying what you're thankful for. How American! The patriarch figure of the family gives his Thanskgiving prayer. And as a rule, any prayer shorter than 2 minutes is no prayer at all.

5. Now that the food is served and everyone is seated, the competition to see who could eat less begins.

A mix of growing up in a (very) vocal and a very obesity-phobic culture makes for interesting greetings at family gatherings. If you get the "You are looking so light these days I could barely recognize you" or anything along the lines of you "reducing in volume", you've passed the test. If there's any mention of  "exercise" or in French "sport" within the first 10 minutes of saying hello, you know you've failed...miserably.

A chorus of "give me a little less" and "Just a touch of that" can be heard echoing around the table. Soon, someone will mention something about no longer eating meat and how great they feel. Someone else will chime in with the benefits of giving up sugar.

Therefore, although a great amount of time was spent preparing the food, there is an even greater time spent circling the food, afraid of eating it.

6. Good (obedient) children start clearing the table, even before everyone is completely done. Bonus, if you go around asking everyone if they're done before you start cleaning up.

7. Now that the eating is done, the task of washing a seemingly unsurmountable amount of plates begins. This is the time when socializing is done, in various non-English languages which makes the American-born children perplexed. What are they saying? WhyareyouguyssoloudIcantwatchmyDisneyreruninpeace, they mutter under their breath because really, they're going to say that out loud?

8. As plates are being cleared, someone will turn on the football game and people will pretend to understand what's going on. Okay, that last part is just me. Some people will actually watch it, for the sake of watching it ( all the while comparing it to Soccer...uh, football)

9. To create ambience, some of the "elders" will ask for music. After fiddling with what the internet has to offer, a compromise will be struck between what the elders might recognize and what the youth might like. Soulfege, Magic System and sometimes this and this will be put on heavy rotation.

10. Slowly, people will start heading back to their residences, not before they pack lunch for tomorrow from the leftovers of today's feast. By this time, the lunch has stretched into dinner, most have woken up from tryptophan-induced comas and have come down from their wine buzz.

All in all, always a good celebration. Always good to see family and to laugh at jokes made in multiple languages.

How do you celebrate your hyphen-American Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



Photo courtesy of mellowynk

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4 Responses to An African Thanksgiving in America

  1. Akhila says:

    Great post! I find it hilarious and see a lot of parallels between this, and the Indian-American Thanksgiving. We sometimes have turkey and mashed potatoes alongside delicious indian food, rice and roti =)

  2. Blu says:

    haha…my Liberian-American thanksgiving was very similar. what trips me every time is how we make traditional American thangsiving meals (turkey, mac and cheese, etc) with insane amounts of habanero…its a very SPICy thanksgiving!!

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