Thanksgiving in Panama

Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American celebration. Canada has its Thanksgiving day celebration on the second Monday of October and the United States holds its on the fourth Thursday of November.

Well, those are the two biggies, anyway. Lesser observances are held in four other countries as well. In Leiden, the Netherlands, where many of the Pilgrims who settled the Plymouth Plantation lived before voyaging to the cold and stony shores of New England, a non-denominational service is held each year on the same day as the celebration in the States.

The 25th of October is called Thanksgiving Day on the island of Grenada but instead of being a harvest celebration it marks the U.S. led invasion of the island in 1983 that led to the deposition and execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November and the Australian Territory of  Norfolk Island follows the tradition introduced to them by American whalers and is held on the last Wednesday of November.

Today was the fourth Thanksgiving I’ve spent outside of the States. The first two were in France in ’89 and ’90. There was a fairly sizable group of American expats in Antibes, most of whom worked on various yachts. Chez Charlie’s Pub and Le Rouf Bar which I would categorize as expat bars because the common language in each was English despite the nationalities of the denizens of those establishments. Each put on a Thanksgiving spread for the Americans. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. While the courses resembled what we think of as the traditional repast in the States there was something that wasn’t “quite” right about it that went beyond the lack of cranberry sauce. Some “je ne sais quoi” that I can’t put my finger on, but we all appreciated the effort they displayed to try and give us a little piece of home away from home.

Thanksgiving of ’91 was spent at sea making the crossing on Jolie Aire from Europe to the States and, as far as I can remember, went unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Here in Panama there is a sizable gringo community from the States and Canada and the Canadians have to accommodate themselves to their brethren from the States. Several restaurants in Boquete, Volcan and David put on specials for the day. I chose to go to the Cuidad de David Hotel where I enjoyed a tasty buffet complete from soup to pumpkin pie, but once again devoid of cranberry sauce. The price was reasonable, the company was enjoyable and I got to watch the New England Patriots whip the Detroit Lions on a large-screen television.

So, just because I’m residing 8 degrees north of the Equator doesn’t mean I missed out on a turkey dinner today.


Filed under Living Abroad, panama, Retirement Abroad

2 responses to “Thanksgiving in Panama

  1. Hi Richard:

    Thank you for your thorough explanation of the many Thanksgiving celebrantions around the globe. I knew about Canada and the U.S. That was it.

    I’m glad you got your taste of Thanksgiving away from home. There are things so embedded in our innserselves we can not and will not forget, no matter what.

    For us in Pananama, Thanksgiving is almost unnoticed. We are looking forward for Christmas Eve, Mother’s Day and of course New Year’s Day. Good eating and drinking lies ahead.

    Best Regards,


    To be honest, Omar, I didn’t know about the other Thanksgiving observances until the other day either. I knew that Canada had one in October and found out about the others looking up when they held theirs. I grew up on Cape Cod about 25 miles from where the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown Harbor and about 60 miles from Plymouth. Because of that fact I know that the sanitized mythology of the Pilgrims coming to the New World to escape religious persecution is a bunch of hooey. They were little more than a bunch of religious whackos. Pretty much nothing more than a cult, and half of the people on the Mayflower weren’t even members of it.

    The myth that they stepped ashore on Plymouth rock and were greeted by Massasoit who then taught them how to grow corn (maize) is such rubbish. The first corn the Pilgrims encountered they dug up and stole from Nauset Indian caches in what is now the town of Truro at a place called “Corn Hill.” And the first time they came in contact with the Nausets was in what is now Eastham at a place known as “First Encounter Beach.” The Pilgrims first reaction was something like “hey, those people don’t look like us and they probably hate Jesus, too, let’s kill ’em.” Fortunately no one was injured. The list goes on and on.

  2. So happy your Thanksgiving was happy! We had a revised feast this year because it turned out to be only Mom and me, and I wasn’t about to do the full routine. So, we had a chicken and dressing casserole, sweet potato casserole, green beans amandine and a new cranberry thing that was terrific – a relish rather than a sauce. Easy as could be, good leftovers and a vague feel of tradition. Perfect.

    One of the best things about living in Liberia was the chance for two Thanksgivings. The Liberian feasts were wonderful, although they could get a little free with the hot peppers for my taste. Palm butter, jollof rice, goat stew – and palm wine, fresh from the tree. I liked it fresh, after it had been around for a while you could use it as leavening for bread – yeasty, for sure!

    I’ve got to know – when you were a kid, did your schools do the “traditional programs”, too. You know, the pilgrim in costume and Indian thing? Or has your part of the country always known about the history and simply laughed at the rest of us? In Iowa, we nodded to the pilgrims and such, but Thanksgiving really was more of a harvest festival – reasonable, since it came at the end of two months of hard field work. When we went to church and sang, “All is safely gathered in, ‘ere the winter storms begin..” it meant something!

    I think my most non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner was in 1961 when I was going to the University of Miami. I had it at the Royal Castle (similar to White Castle) hamburger joint. I had a bowl of chili, four cheeseburgers, a birch beer (yum) and a slice of chocolate pie.

    I don’t remember what went on in my grammar school days. Can’t remember a single teacher’s name. Of course I went to four different schools in the first six and a half years before finally moving to the Cape in the seventh grade…my fifth school.

    Down there, and I say “down there” because the section of the Cape that we lived in is referred to as the “Lower Cape” and of course we celebrated Thanksgiving but we knew what had really happened so we didn’t have little “playlettes” of Massasoit coming down and showing the Pilgrims how to stuff a herring alongside a kernel of corn and other assorted sanitized fairy tales most of America was raised on. But the turkey always tasted just as good.