It was our first year as an immigrant family. A few days before Thanksgiving, a small yellowish envelope with little illustrations of red leaves and orange pumpkins arrived at the house: An invitation to celebrate our first Thanksgiving with new friends in the United States.
My family and I arrived in the United States a sunny day in June of 1990. First, it felt like a nice long vacation but the children started school in September and soon winter came over us like a heavy dark blanket. As many immigrants, we had no family or friends, just my husband’s work acquaintances.
Later in November, preparations for Thanksgiving Day started around us. The children brought comments and stories from school and anxiously were asking how we were about to celebrate. In my heart, I was feeling sad that we had no family members with whom to get together but did not want to share the sentiment with the kids, at the time nine and 13.
A few days before Thanksgiving, a small yellowish envelope with little illustrations of red leaves and orange pumpkins arrived at the house: An invitation to celebrate our first Thanksgiving with new friends in the United States. That day, it was not only the beginning of a thankful tradition but also of a friendship that has lasted a lifetime.
Since then, we adopted Thanksgiving Day as our own tradition and we celebrate it each year, maybe not with the same meaning as Americans do but with our own sense of gratitude for all the blessing we receive on a daily basis. Here are some I’d like to share with you:
- Thanksgiving Day is a day to celebrate living in harmony with each other
As those pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, we are thankful for the opportunities we found in this country and the people who have opened their homes and their hearts to help us. We have learned to live and share our experiences with families from all ancestries, races, religions and other differences that make us appreciate the value of diversity.
- We welcome those who arrive now as well as those who arrived then
The history of this country is based on the immigrant experience. From the pilgrims looking for religious freedom to those who were forced to arrive in this land through slavery, and from the waves of immigrants who fled wars, famine or political persecution to those who continue to arrive today in search for better life opportunities, we must open our arms and invite them to our tables.
- Latinos are a grateful culture and we count our blessings
Overall, our shared Christian tradition encourages Latinos to be grateful for the blessings we received. Not everybody is lucky –as we were– to be welcomed in someone else’s home. However, we still need to remember that no matter the circumstances we live in or the challenges we face, we can always find reasons and people to be grateful for: our children and grandchildren, our family –close or extended- our friends and colleagues, and all those who come to our lives to share theirs with us.
- Make it a day to remember your reasons and your people to be thankful for
My gratitude goes to all who have opened doors for me and my family since we arrived that sunny day in 1990. Some of those doors were their homes’, their offices’ or their hearts’ but one by one they helped us build our life in our new adopted homeland.
¿Y tú, por qué estás agradecido?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” United States Declaration of Independence