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Laotian Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving Day


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mericans have been celebrating Thanksgiving for several hundred years now. The first Thanksgiving celebration dated back to 1621 in Plymouth where the first Pilgrims landed in what is now the state of Massachusetts. The first feast lasted for three days or more. It was an occasion for the pilgrims to give thanks to God for their first bountiful harvests and to the Native Americans, or Indians, who had helped them through harsh winters and difficult times. They would invite the Indians to celebrate the feast together. The Pilgrims had migrated from Europe and came to this land to escape religious persecution, searching for religion freedom. Many newcomers to this country follow the same traditions.

The late President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be a Thanksgiving observation day and made it a national holiday. This is the busiest travel time of the year. People fly or drive long distances to get together with their families and friends to celebrate the holiday and have a nice meal together. The main food for this feast is a stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, ham, pumpkin or apple pie and sweet yam.

The highlight of Thanksgiving Day is a big parade, particularly in New York City. Macy’s Department store has long been the sponsor of the biggest and most popular parade during the Thanksgiving Day. Thousands of people line up New York’s Broadway Avenue to watch the parade of floats carrying big cartoon characters, together with marching bands, dancers and singers.

Lao-Americans from various ethnicities also celebrate Thanksgivings to give thanks for their new and better lives here in this country. This year, VOA interviewed a leader of the Lao-Khmu community in California. Mr. Inh Sooksamphan told us that he and his family celebrate Thanksgiving every year in both traditions, Lao and American. He has two boys who were born in this country, so the traditional American dinner is a must - stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie and all. But the older generation still cannot do without Lao food. So they prepare Lao-styled turkey salad -larb or koy – together with sweet rice, papaya salad and Lao BBQ chicken.

“We would cook American food for our children and their friends; but we still have Lao food for us adults, a food that we are accustomed to. Furthermore, in our Lao-Khmu’s traditions, this coincides with our New Year and the time to celebrate the harvest season, so we tend to have a big dinner and big celebration to be thankful for our blessings," he explained.

“Thanksgiving is also the time to show our sincere thanks to this country, to the American government and people who brought us and gave us a better life, allowing us to experience true freedom.” Inh concluded.


Listen to audio files for more details.

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