Kwento Kwentuhan

Filipinos Celebrate Thanksgiving with Family and Friends

Liza A Pierce of “A Maui Blog”

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. It is a national holiday in the United States. The country as a whole takes time to be with family and friends. It is celebrated with a feast usually referred to as Thanksgiving Dinner.

Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving as a harvest feast in the fall of 1621. It evolved through the years and President Abraham Lincoln eventually declared it an American public holiday in 1863. Since then, the celebration happens every fourth Thursday of November. This year 2022, it will be observed on Thursday, November 24.

While Thanksgiving is more a part of American history and culture, Filipinos in the U.S. have slowly made it a part of their lives in America. Those who recently arrived in the country and are not particularly familiar with the tradition are amazed at the role Thanksgiving plays in American culture. But over the years, Filipinos have slowly assimilated and have even managed to add some Pinoy flavor into the time-honored occasion. In this article we will call this hybrid celebration the Fil-Am Style.

The Hardy ‘ohana celebrates Thanksgiving in a Fil-Am style with a traditional American Thanksgiving menu and a little bit of hybrid additions to enhance their eating experience.
Photo courtesy Agnes Hardy

Thanksgiving Fil-Am Style

While Filipinos in America celebrate Thanksgiving Fil-Am Style, the focus is still the same. The focus is to give thanks for all the blessings we have received and been receiving. It also focuses on building relationships with family and friends, who are among the greatest blessings in our lives.

One of the areas Fil-Am Style differs is the food prepared and served. Conventional Thanksgiving in the U.S. consists of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pies, pecan pies and apple cider drinks. For a Fil-Am Style Thanksgiving dinner, the food may also include lechon (roasted pig), crispy pata, pancit, lumpia, kare kare, adobo and leche flan for dessert. It also differs in the presentation and serving. It is less formal, more like a potluck or buffet stye. There is always an abundance of food, however, and they cook extra so guests can take some food home when they leave the party if they so desire.

After the bountiful and heartfelt dinner, karaoke singing may be included. But it is always a time to talk story (yes, kwento-kwentuhan). It is a wonderful time with family and friends.

Here is the Hardy ‘ohana Fil-Am Style spread prior to their Thanksgiving feast. All the food and the decorative settings were carefully and lovingly set in anticipation of a meal that exemplifies thanks.
Photo courtesy Agnes Hardy

Is Thanksgiving celebrated in the Philippines?

Historically, as an American colony from 1898 to 1946, the Philippines celebrated Thanksgiving on the same day as the United States. President Manuel Quezon even declared it an official local holiday in 1935. Commemoration paused during the Japanese occupation, although locals still celebrated secretly. The tradition returned during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who even moved the date to September 21. It ended after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

I must admit, however, that as I was growing up in the Philippines, I had no recollection of celebrating Thanksgiving Day as a special day or holiday. Christmas and New Years’ day are the biggest holidays. Only when I arrived in the U.S. I learned to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way. Only when I was researching deeper about Thanksgiving with Filipinos (for this column) I learned we did (and some still do) celebrate Thanksgiving in the Philippines. How about you? Do you recall celebrating a Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines prior to your arrival in the U.S.?

What Are You Thankful for?

As mentioned earlier, the focus of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. In closing, I would like to ask you dear readers: What are you thankful for this year? Yes, we can (and should be) thankful everyday but it is also a delight to set aside a day specifically for giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!

Liza Pierce of A Maui Blog is an Interactive Media enthusiast. She started blogging in 2006 and she loves talking story online and spreading aloha around the world. She’s been living on Maui since 1994 and considers Maui her home. A wife, a mother, a friend…and so much more. She loves Jesus; Maui Sunsets Catcher; Crazy About Rainbow; End Alzheimer’s Advocate. Her life is full and exciting here on the island of Maui. Liza is currently the Digital Media Specialist with Hawai‘i Life Real Estate Brokers. She is the author of the book Maui 2021 and Beyond..