Celebrating Thanksgiving While Living In Belize

How Belize Is Celebrating Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Day holiday is traditionally a U.S. custom. Since 1863, it’s been faithfully celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It is also called Turkey Day as the customary big-bird lunch never ceases to disappoint, filling homes with tempting smells and family mouths with delicious tastes. And it isn’t just eating that makes this day so special. A multitude of activities and events take place all over the US and many people come out to watch the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day parade, full of giant balloons, floats, performers and even cheerleaders. But what do expats abroad do? Watching on Cable TV is one option but there are also other ways to chase away any nostalgia for home…

Living in Belize for the last couple of years has given me an opportunity to view how local people handle one of our major holidays. First of all, many expats, including myself, make it a point to learn about the holidays of the locals and if appropriate, celebrate with them. Take Belize’s recent celebration of independence from Britain… my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the parade. So maybe it is the participation of expats in Belize’s festivities or simply because Belizeans are instinctive party-goers at heart, but either way, they return the favor and join us for Thanksgiving.

In honor of Thanksgiving Day this year and to help U.S. expats feel more at home, various restaurants sent out word that they would be serving turkey on the big day. The food is great any day of the year so hearing turkey was on the cards was a real puller. And locals went to the trouble to hang fake branches of autumn-colored leaves everywhere (Belize doesn’t have the leaf changing fall season like in the States).

At June’s Kitchen on the highway road, a meal was whipped up of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potato salad and a whole lot of fun and laughter. Both locals and expats stopped by for friendly chatter and the smell of home-cooked pumpkin pie.

Another of my favorite restaurants that served turkey on the big day was the Turtle Bar and Restaurant at the Almond Tree Resort located right at the Corozal Bay. Their Thanksgiving meal had all the trimmings, and even included carrot cake. A good time was had by all but for me, the really special part was giving thanks before tucking in… we gave thanks for living in Belize. How beautiful!

It’s kind of strange to see familiar faces of locals in town, engage in conversation with them, and then not wish them a Happy Thanksgiving as you go your separate ways. However, some locals who are in touch with our traditions extend a wish for a happy Thanksgiving Day. Many Belizeans have family members in the States and realize how special this day is for Americans. When someone asks about the significance of Thanksgiving Day, I take time to inform them. I appreciate that they are interested in our traditions just as I try to be respectful of theirs. It really makes for better understanding of each other’s cultures and helps to bring communities closer together. This Thanksgiving, I made it a point to visit my favorite vendors and thank them for their many acts of kindness; for example, helping me pick out the items I needed, or giving me tips on how to prepare a special meal. Some had helped me with my Spanish so I thanked them for being muy amable (very kind). To others, it was muchas gracias(many thanks).

This is my second year of celebrating Thanksgiving out of the United States. I am impressed that so many restaurants in Belize want to honor what is important to people no matter where they are from. From Al’s Diner, Patty’s Bistro, June’s Kitchen, and the Almond Tree Resort, a Thanksgiving Day feast could be ordered, and that is not to be sneered at—roasting your own turkey for hours on end in 80-degrees weather is not a favorite pastime!

Aside from it being a favorite holiday, I am pleased that my home country continues to honor and celebrate a day when we stop to give thanks. This gratitude could be for the special people in our lives, the tangible and intangible things we cherish, and for everything or everybody that make living a happy occasion. With so much that is happening around us, how can we say thanks for the positives we experience? I think one way is to be grateful for being in or living in a country that not only welcomes us but even joins us in our traditional celebrations. Sure, establishments financially profit from us but we receive so much… we have the priceless advantage of Thanks-Living in a place called Beautiful Belize every day of the year.

Come and join us next year… it’s home from home!

Marie Peay