Around the world, no matter in what city or country you find yourself, loved ones, friends and family gather together to celebrate the gifts of the season. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is about just that—giving thanks for all that life has blessed us with.
And although giving thanks is most definitely a universal idea, the specific way each region and ethnic group choose to mark this seasonal celebration vary a great deal—only adding to the richness and beauty of each distinct, traditional observance one is privileged enough to be included within.
For instance, I distinctly remember my very first Hawaiian Thanksgiving, almost a decade ago now. Born and raised in the South and until then, having celebrated every holiday steeped in the Southern traditions of the Carolinas, I must admit it was a quite dramatically different experience, yet one that was entirely welcome and wonderful. That first year (and the almost nine which have since followed), I reveled in the shared similarities of the holidays, like celebrating with friends and those near and dear, and I also came to embrace the Thanksgiving “switcheroos” that Hawaii literally brought to the table.
Traded was my Nana’s traditional Southern deep-fried turkey, in lieu of foreign swine fare, found roasted in the ground! In the Islands, the use of an imu (an oven built underground) provides the perfect place for Hawaii’s traditional Thanksgiving classic: kalua pork. Hours upon hours this meat spends buried until it is later unearthed, tender, succulent and sliding right off the bone. And not only is the dish delicious, the time spent fellowshipping around the fire and smoke yearly forges many deep friendships and ohana family.
Sides are also swapped from my Southern fixin’s. Creamy, mashed ‘taters were traded with tasty taro. And for dessert? Rather than Aunt Betty’s sweet potato casserole—an orange smashup smothered in brown sugar and charred marshmallow—Hawaii hosted me with a delicious, vibrantly purple Okinawan Sweet potato pie.
It was indeed, and has been since, a happy Thanksgiving.
By Andy Beth Miller