By Rachele Viard
While Thanksgiving isn’t my absolute favorite holiday, that title belongs to Christmas, it is definitely up there. And for me it’s all about spending time with family and taking time to be extra thankful for everything I’m fortunate enough to have. When I officially moved to Haiti in 2011, I continued with my mother the American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving, which in the states marks the historic meal between the newly-settled pilgrims and the Indians.
Here in Haiti though for those who celebrate the holiday like expats and Haitians from the diaspora who’ve found their way back to the country, it takes on a new meaning. I believe it is more focused as a day to spend surrounded by family and friends and great food.
It’s about a day of thanks and one may even go so far as to say that even here in Haiti it signifies the advent of the holiday season. Years later my house has become the place to congregate the last Thursday in November. And over time while keeping some of the traditions of a typical Thanksgiving (i.e. pumpkin pie and stuffing) we have added Haitian touches into our meal and décor for the holiday. For example our meal will begin with a soup joumon (Pumpkin Soup) and along with our bird this year there will be an option of griot (fried marinated pork chunks), mashed pitimi (quinoa) instead of potatoes, and diri djon djon will also garnish the table which are sure to be a hit. Little touches like these really add a Haitian touch to Thanksgiving.
Though Thanksgiving is not an actual holiday in Haiti, many celebrate it here. And each year certain restaurants commemorate the day by creating special pre-fixed menus. This creates an excuse to get together as a family for a night out, and have a meal that may be out of the ordinary. I for one am all for exposing Haitian friends new to my circle and even relatives here who haven’t always celebrated the holiday here to come on over and enjoy Thanksgiving at my house.