• 04 Dec, 2022

Indo-Caribbeans Giving Thanks in America

Indo-Caribbeans Giving Thanks in America

Indo-Caribbeans Giving Thanks in America

Thursday is Thanksgiving in America – an annual holiday that has been observed for centuries on the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving Day is a historical celebration going back to the 1600s since the early settlement of North America by Europeans – the Europeans gave thanks for the harvest to the natives for helping them to grow food and building shelters. It comes right after Diwali for Hindus in America and is connected to lighting with streets and homes brilliantly illuminated and spritely decorated. It is a national holiday, a kind of a spiritual day (without denomination) observed on the fourth Thursday of every November with businesses and schools closed in recess for an extended weekend. The festival sets up a state of mind for the end of year celebrations -- Christmas and Hanukah (Jewish) holidays which is a month later.
Thanksgiving gives thanks for the end of the harvest season in America. It started as a celebration and a festival of giving thanks as an expression of gratitude to the native indigenous people (called Indians by Europeans) for rescuing and assisting the European settlers from starvation. The Indians showed the European how to grow and store food and stay warm in the winter. The festival has been observed as a tradition and has become an official holiday over the last several decades.
 

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Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

 
People generally celebrate the holiday with family reunions, church service, feasts, charitable offerings, and travel. And Guyanese, Trinis, and other Caribbean immigrants are thick into the celebration, giving their own flavor to it in terms of decorations, attire, cuisine, and drinks. Like the early European settlers and those who followed them well into the 1900s, later immigrants like Guyanese, Trinis, other Caribbean people, South Asians, etc. are giving thanks for their presence in America. Immigrants like Guyanese are counting their blessings giving thanks to America for welcoming them and for their enjoyment of a better quality of life than in their home countries. America has been kind and receptive to immigrants enabling their rapid rise in income having their own homes, cars, businesses, post-secondary education, high income jobs. Many even work at multiple jobs and pursue higher education that was not available in Guyana. Caribbean people are for the most part success stories with one of the highest income groups in the U.S contributing a lot more in taxes than in benefits receive. Many have become successful entrepreneurs in a very short time after arrival. And many have joined the ranks of professionals (in medicine, law, engineering, and computer technology) with some of the highest salaries in the nation. Indo-Caribbeans, for example, are included among Indian Americans with highest family income that exceeds US$125K annually and with the fastest home ownership among all groups except Filipinos.
 
Giving, a facet of the celebration, is part of Indian culture. Guyanese and Trini immigrants give thanks by offering charities with the poorer sections of society – donating to organizations that help the less fortunate and preparing meals to feed the homeless.  Giving back to society is considered as part of their duty because the community has so much to be thankful for being healthy and alive and escaping the impoverishment in Guyana. Guyanese and Trinis in Queens annually shared food with the homeless and the poor. Their assistance helps to ease social problems such as hunger, poverty and homelessness in the city.  As they do with all other festivals like Easter, Christmas, Eid, Holi, etc., Guyanese Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in their own unique way with their traditional cuisine and drinks.  Every wave of immigrants, including recent arrivals like Guyanese (post-1965) and the large Caribbean and South Asian communities settled in the NY metropolitan region, have joined in the celebration by adding their own ethnic flavor giving thanks and to the traditional cuisine, music, drinks and entertainment.  Bollywood and Chatney are popular among Indo-Caribbeans while Calypso, Reggae and dub are popular among Afros.
Caribbean people, as indeed most Americans, view Thanksgiving as an occasion for family reunion and dinners. Relatives normally take turn hosting dinner over the four days period from Thursday to Sunday. Dinner normally includes the traditional baked or roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet yams, corn, cranberry jelly, and salad (including sugar beets) with wine and other hard liquor. It is supplemented with traditional dishes including varied curries, dhal puri, pachounie, phulourie, bara, fried rice, chowmein, and fried channa as snacks and their favorite drinks — mauby and sorrel for the children and Caribbean rum for the adults. For desert, there is Black cake, pumkin pie, sweet potato pie and Indo-Caribbeans throw in rasmalai, gulab jamoon, etc. And it is not unusual for them to substitute the turkey with curried duck, chicken, mutton, and goat, etc.
 
Thanksgiving Day is usually celebrated with the largest parade in the nation on Fifth Avenue featuring all kinds of magnificent floats and balloons of cartoon characters and a host of Hollywood celebrities and sports stars. Caribbean people patronize the parade or watch it on TV.
Indo-Caribbeans are giving thanks for the progress they have made in America. They are contributing in making America a better place to live and sharing their wealth and giving back to the society to which they owe their success. They are very thankful for their well-being in America.

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr. Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a holder of multiple degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, and education. He taught for over forty years in the US. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling globally to research and write about Indian communities.