COMMENTARY: Thanks to La Vida!

Thanksgiving Day is a Latino holiday... For real.

For one, the first actual bread breaking between Europeans and Native Americans took place 56 years earlier than the one in 1621 at Plymouth Rock. According to historian Michael Gannon, Spanish settlers sat down to dinner with a tribe of Seloy Indians near St. Augustine, Florida, in early September 1565. And the menu surely involved garbanzos and chorizo and vino, main staples that according to documentation, were carried aboard ship. The Seloys probably brought the turkey or the venison and the corn bread.

Secondly, because of all the American holidays we’ve inherited, Thanksgiving represents the closest to our experience as travelers coming to a new land to start life anew and then taking time off to share a meal with strangers and give thanks for our safe passage, acknowledge those who were here before us and appreciate the bounty Mother Nature had to offer.

It’s also a pliable holiday we are free to adapt and bend the rules and skip the cranberries for mango pico de gallo or stuff the bird, as my mother used to, with rice and beans.

But sometimes, among the frenetic turkey defrosting, stuffing and cooking, family visits, and way too early Christmas shopping, we lose sight of what Thanksgiving Day is really about.

It’s about not just being grateful, but expressing it. And some have a narrow view of what they should give thanks for.

Recently I ran into one of those totally unscientific Internet polls which asked people to rate the things they are most thankful for: The results were as follows: 1. My family; 2. My children; 3. My friends; 4. My house; 5. My health; 6. My job.

Before you jump to conclusions and think respondents were being selfish, understand that it was a flawed survey. Those were the only six options offered. Participants just had to put them in order of priority.

I did not participate in the survey. I refuse to accept that people who have no family or friends, or are homeless, sick or unemployed have nothing to be thankful for.

Even in the worst conditions, we should be grateful for Life itself, then for hope that things will improve, not just for ourselves, but for all. I would also express thanks for living in the most beautiful planet in all known galaxies and appreciate its mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes and a magnificent ocean filled with creatures great and small—and very tasty too.

This year, if it’s your turn to give thanks before taking the first bite, think of something to be thankful for that doesn’t begin with “My.”

Enjoy the turkey and the tamales…and maybe some garbanzos and chorizo, too.