by: Christopher F. Conde-Viruet
Thanksgiving, which in Puerto Rico also known as “Día de Acción de Gracias” or “Día del Pavo”, is a day to give thanks for all the blessings you have had over the year. This wonderful holiday is celebrated yearly every fourth Thursday in November. This celebration tends to be special for everyone, but this year it was outstandingly special for a family from Santurce, Puerto Rico, who, during this Thanksgiving was able to join together again two strands from a family that hadn’t seen each other for roughly 23 years. For most people from the island, the celebration is about the gathering of family and spending time with each other to share and enjoy the feast. Witnessing the gathering at the Viruet family house would probably make anyone realize the true importance of Thanksgiving, which is the gathering of family. In Puerto Rico, the “Día del Pavo” is a day to get together with the ones you love most and maybe even invite those who might not have someone who to spend the holiday with or money with which to buy a good portion of food. Usually, for this holiday, Puerto Ricans tend to have a pretty ample menu including turkey, potato salad, rice with beans, salad, maybe some fried plantains, and possibly more dishes and sides.
The Viruet house was not an exception to the typical menu for Puerto Rican households. They had all of the food mentioned and flan, cake and cheesecake for dessert. The atmosphere was joyful with classical Puerto Rican Christmas music like “trova”, “trulla”, “plena” and “bomba” playing in the background while the family sat outside under the carport roof. Another typical sighting is the group of four people playing Dominoes while the rest of the family chatted and waited for the game to finish in order to take their turn playing.
“I love thanksgiving. It is fun catching up once again with family members… plus the food was great!” said Carmen Viruet the youngest daughter of the Viruet household. For Puerto Ricans, the Thanksgiving tradition has become an important part of our culture and some people even think that this celebration is the beginning of the Christmas season. Besides the fact that all United States and Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, Puerto Rico has added its own Latin flavor to the holiday. Thanksgiving is a day to have a good time with the family, share thoughts and remember the great things the family members have been able to achieve and accomplish. It is a day to sit in a table with family members with delicious food and say grace before devouring the culinary wonders prepared for that day. A good example of a simple prayer that gives thanks and wishes others well would be something like, “Lord bless this food and the hands that made it, and let every household in the world to enjoy food on this day. Please do not let any child go to bed hungry, and bless Your children’s food, Amen.” Having in mind that when you sincerely wish good things to others, you will be more likely to receive good things as well, which is one of the basic beliefs of Thanksgiving.
According to the Pilgrim Hall Museum, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts which it celebrated with religious views. The pilgrims were grateful for the success in their harvest. Later, on the 1st of November, 1777, by order of congress, the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation was established and signed by Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress. The third Thursday of December, 1777 was thus officially set aside. “For solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor” as Samuel Adams, father of the American Revolution said during the first Thanksgiving (Thanks-giving Square).
Then, in 1789, George Washington, the first president of the United States, wrote his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation, which says, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor” (Thanks-giving Square). Thanks to Washington and his proclamation on Thursday the 19th day of February, 1789, a National Day for Thanksgiving was set aside.
Finally, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln further established by Act of Congress an annual National Day of Thanksgiving, “on the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens” (Millard).
What is to be understood by these proclamations, and the Thanksgiving holiday is that, simply put, it doesn’t matter if you are Puerto Rican, American or Canadian you should take at least one day out the entire year and dedicate it to giving thanks and praising your Divine Benefactor for your past blessings and those yet to come.