Thanksgiving Day, the 4th Thursday of November, is an annual holiday, a day to give thanks to God for all the blessings and the good things in life. This tradition has been observed and celebrated since the early settlements of the Englishmen or the pilgrims who fled religious persecution back in their homeland. The first Thanksgiving celebration dated back to 1619 in Berkeley Hundred, VA, and later in Plymouth, MA, in 1921.
In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. All government offices, banks, schools and businesses are closed on this day so that employees and workers can stay home, or return home if they live faraway, to celebrate the occasion with family members and loved ones.
Refugees and immigrants to this country have embraced this tradition in order to blend in with the Amrican society. Laotian-American families, most of whom came to the United States in the 80’s, are no exception. They have assimilated into the American society and living the American way of life. Most, if not all, celebrate Thanksgiving like the Americans do, but with a touch of their own traditions and culture, like the family of Norasack Pathammavong.
Norasack, a graphic designer who lives in Alexandria, VA., discusses his family’s Thanksgiving celebration with VOA: “It’s a day when our family members get together for dinner, each one of us bringing food to share. Each year we take turn hosting the dinner. We feast on traditional Thanksgiving dishes – turkey, ham, stuffings, dressings etc… - but we always wrap up with turkey Larb(Lao turkey salad).”
Manida Pathammavong, Norasack’s wife, says she always adds a couple of dishes of traditional Lao food to their family Thanksgiving Day menu, “Turkey is a must for the children, and apple pie, pumkin pie and ice cream for desserts. But I also make “larb” and some other Lao dishes for those who enjoy spicy food.”
The Pathammavong children – Nina, Thida, and Soulisa – say they love Thanksgiving because school will be closed for two days and they will have a long weekend. In addition, cousins and friends will come over, and they can stay up late and there is plenty of food. And this year’s Thanksgiving is especially special because it falls on Thida’s birthday. That means double celebrations!
Thanksgiving is also a day to give to the unfortunate and the needy. Churches, charities and non-profit organizations launch food drives to collect can food and clothings to distribute to poor people. Others provide hot meals to the homless.
Listen to our audio files for more of Thanksgiving celebrations in Lao.