Thanksgiving doesn’t exist in Ethiopia. But, here in America it is a big holiday. Ethiopian Americans have adopted this holiday and made it a day to gather with their extended families. Although I have never experienced Thanksgiving in a non Ethiopian setting, I can bet it is quit different than my experience.
My family has been celebrating Thanksgiving in America for about 40 years now. (since before I was born, obviously! ) Each year we gather in larger numbers than the year before as each family member marries and has kids. Each year the blend of Ethiopian and American becomes more obvious than the year before. As the second generation begins to share our two cents and take a hand in organizing our blended cultures becomes clearer than ever. I think it is something to be admired . The fact that we have taken a part of Ethiopian Culture and blended it with American Culture, almost flawlessly. We find a common ground between the two cultures and blend it with no distinction between the two. The love of family brings us together, the desire to hold on to our heritage, and the need to know our past so we may move forward in our futures. That’s what thanksgiving means for us.
There is great debate though. Should we celebrate using Ethiopian food, or should we celebrate with strictly American food. We’ve tried it both ways, but it almost only makes sense that we have an Ethiopian American Thanksgiving Feast that blends our food the same way we blend our culture. Flawlessly without distinction. Clear admiration for both, a need to recognize both. Understanding and acceptance for both cultures. A spread on the thanksgiving dinner table that represents who we are in the most literal sense. Both Ethiopian and American. I can’t say I’m fully one or the other, so why should the holiday feast fully represent one over the other?
At the end of the day, what does it matter what is on our plates. The nourishment our souls get, of listening to the wisdom of the elders tell stories of the past, the joy of seeing the newest members of the family through marriage and birth- that’s what it’s all about. The truest blend of Ethiopian and American is seen most vividly through my Ethiopian American Thanksgiving.