It’s almost Turkey Day. You have been invited to a Latino celebration and are wondering: what makes el Dia de Accion de Gracias different from a traditional Thanksgiving celebration? The answer is simple — it’s a party. 

You open the door to the smell of apple or pecan pie. The television might be on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (probably with Spanish subtitles), but there will be something entirely different. 

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Llego el Dia del Pavo 

Thanksgiving is not an official holiday in Latin America or the Caribbean.

The U.S. holiday is based on the Pilgrims’ 1621 harvest meal when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians feasted together on a shared autumn harvest. It is seen as one of the first colonial Thanksgiving celebrations.

Yet, some 76% of U.S. Latinos celebrate the nation’s holidays. They adore Thanksgiving because it’s about three of their favorite things: family, food, and faith.

Latinos do it their way and with their condiments and spices 

For example, pumpkin flan supplants pumpkin pie. In Latin America, you rarely see a turkey at the table; it’s usually pork or ham (with those little cinnamon cloves stuck in it and adorned with pineapple rings.) 

In the U.S., when the turkey is at the table, Latinos stuff it with Abuela’s mofongo or chorizo cornbread — not your grandma’s recipe. 

So, if this year is your first San Giving in a Latino household, below are some helpful hints on navigating the day successfully. 

First of all, Thanksgiving in a Latino home starts late. So don’t arrive early bearing boxed mashed potatoes 

When you arrive, say your hellos, and then go straight to the kitchen. That is the place where everyone gathers. It’s the hearth and heart of every Latino home.  

In the kitchen, you will find Abuelas and cousins milling about, gossiping (beware the meddling tias), sneaking pinches of the food as the designated cook drinks tequila or rum, and attempting to stick the turkey in the oven efficiently.  

Nearby, a table will groan under the weight of deep dishes filled to the brim with traditional American and Hispanic foods, colors, and smells. 

Mash potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce layered with oranges and red onion, and caramelized Brussels sprouts will sit alongside tamales, mole, posole, mofongo stuffing, arroz con gandules, and a Pavochon — a turkey seasoned like a roasted pig. 

There might even be Coquito, a smooth coconut, cinnamon, and rum drink usually served at Christmas, but any excuse to drink will do. Just don’t you dare call it eggnog.  

For sure there will be music — all day long and loud 

Interspersed with the parades and football games sounds, you will hear Mexican Marco Antonio Solís – “Gracias por estar aquí,” Colombian Carlos Vive’s “Volvi a Nacer” or what has become the San Giving anthem — Dominican Silvio Mora’s “Llego el Pavo.” 

But all this would go to zero if you forget one crucial thing — what to wear. 

Pay attention; this is super important. If a Latino invites you to their Thanksgiving feast and tells you to dress casually, don’t believe them 

The Mother, the daughter, and the aunt will all, and I mean all, be dressed to the nines. That means full hair, make-up, oversized accessories, and a planned outfit bought months ago. 

Yes, we get all gussied up just to sit in the sala glued to our phones and wait for the food to be served. 

Do not arrive in sweats (it doesn’t matter if it’s Lulumon), wet hair, no make-up, and Uggs. This is as important, and maybe even more, than the food. 

If you don’t take the “what will I wear” seriously, you will be “la comidilla” (the talk) of the entire afternoon. En guerra avisada no muere gente. 

And when all is said and done, don’t forget to take home some sobras or leftovers. There will be plenty. Just bring back the Tupperware after you finish.