|Dear Multilingual Living Friends,
Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us living (or raised) in the United States. It is a unique holiday in part because of its conglomeration of so many different traditions. Is it to commemorate a meal that the first pilgrims had with the Native Americans? Or maybe it has its roots in early pagan rituals as a way to give thanks for the summer’s bounty? For many it is simply a wonderful opportunity to get together and experience the beauty of family and community.How we celebrate this holiday is varied. I once worked with a man whose family would invite a homeless person each year to have Thanksgiving dinner with them in their home. I know another family who gets together with relatives to spend the day snacking on chocolate, potato chips and soda – the men watch sports on TV and the women make the Turkey dinner. Others I know volunteer time and food to local homeless shelters to ensure that those less fortunate have a full belly and a warm, safe place to sleep.
Being that Thanksgiving means something different for each family, it is hard to pin-point traditional elements that set it apart from other holidays. My mother used to call it “turkey day” because of the main culinary attraction. But what about families who are vegetarian? I doubt a giant, golden-browned bird is the crowing glory on their table.
Regardless of how we celebrate, what underlies this holiday is a sense of appreciation. It is the opportunity to focus on how bountiful our lives really are. To have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and running water in our homes is something for which each of us should be truly thankful. We are lucky that our summer harvest is not all we will have to depend upon for the rest of the winter.
In my home, we talk a lot about the role that immigration has played in the development of the United States as we know it: both good and bad. What made people leave their homes to risk death to cross a wild ocean? How do immigrants influence the places that they then inhabit? To what degree are we all immigrants, even in our own countries, moving from city to city and state to state?
As we know, an immigrant is not always the stereotypical image that the media portrays. We are all immigrants to one degree or another: some more recent, others generations past. Those who responded to the question “Are you an immigrant? Where do you live?” on the Multilingual Living Facebook wall remind us that the faces of immigration are vibrant and active. Immigrants bring the spice and flavor to today’s global communities!
Throughout history we find that the actual movement of people is rarely the real problem. It is the process of assimilation that creates fear, anger and frustration. It is the arrival of new traditions and ways of life that confuse us, worry us, and cause us to put up walls of resistance. Being that humans like to classify, we have become very efficient in putting one another into little boxes in our minds and identifying the many ways that we are different from one another. Ironically, as indicated in the post Immigration and Language, by Bettina Ribes-Gil, immigrants may be the ones to thank for ultimately bringing us together globally. It is difficult to despise people from another country when a respected coworker or friend is from that country (and vice versa).
This Thanksgiving, take a moment to give thanks to immigrants everywhere for forcing our world to learn to deal with “the other.” For those of us who are recent immigrants ourselves, we can let everyone know how thankful we are to be able to change the world for the better just by being who we are.
Many Multilingual Wishes,
Founder, Multilingual Living
P.S. Keep your eyes open for a post I have written for the Language Lizard blog about Immigration and Thanksgiving (included are tips for how to talk about this holiday with children).