Our Typical Traditions

In Spain, we’ll end up celebrating Thanksgiving, eating turkey and drinking hot cider.

Tonight is Thanksgiving. Thousands of families gather around the table to eat. Friends and acquaintances may also be invited so they’re not alone on such an important day. The main dish is roasted turkey with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Desserts vary from one place to another, but pumpkin pie is recommended. As for drinks, spiced hot cider is ideal.

Thanksgiving — I won’t use the Spanish ‘Acción de Gracias’ — has several good things going for it: it’s inclusive, it’s secular and it always falls on Thursday. That means a guaranteed long weekend. This celebration may be a bit alien to us, but that doesn’t stop us from getting used to it, because there’s one thing we can be completely sure of: all of us here are going to end up eating the turkey and cranberry sauce around the table and drinking hot cider, and there will be some clueless family member that says, “Christmas sure has come early this year.” After all, tomorrow we’ll immerse ourselves in ‘Black Friday’ — another typically Spanish phrase — and we just finished celebrating Halloween — yet another one — in style. We’ll use the Halloween pumpkins to make the dessert.

The global village is increasingly more village-like and less global. Perhaps it’s inevitable, but this way of experiencing globalization, instead of facilitating knowledge and access to the particularities of other groups — that in turn gives value to our own particularities in the eyes of others — is creating an express homogenization. That is, value is detracted both from our own traditions, which disappear, and from foreign traditions, which appear unnatural. We’re left with something that’s neither one thing or the other.

We have several examples of this all over the world, from holidays, the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in the microcenter of Buenos Aires is a huge event, with food — international food served in hotels — and shopping. Try showing someone the interior of a mall in Nairobi and asking that person where the picture is from. A few years ago, yours truly asked a colleague what it was like to live in Beijing. “There’s Carrefour,” (a French supermarket chain) was his reply.

Is there another way? Maybe, but the turkey’s burning.

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