Well, Thanksgiving is totally a USA holiday, so there aren't any traditions here for that. They are aware that we have a holiday for Thanksgiving, but they don't really understand what it is all about. In fact, we have school on Thanksgiving. No holiday for us, even though 98% of the students in our language institute are Americans. Today in my Conversation class, we talked about foods and traditions... I can tell you some things I learned about that.
1. They aren't big on eating turkey here. The main reason is because there just aren't many turkeys! In the States, we actually have turkey farms and grow turkeys for eating, but they just don't do that here. Any turkeys that happen to be in the stores are imported from the USA and they are only bought by "gringos".
2. Pumpkin is a vegetable and is not cooked in pie (in Costa Rica). They make soup with it, if they eat it at all. Most people cannot afford a pumpkin... they are about $10 each for one the size of a small soccer ball!!! They don't have canned pumpkin here, so you can't buy it in a can to make pie. We did hear of a store that specializes in American import foods and you can get canned pumpkin there, but it is expensive. Guess we won't be having pumpkin pie this year! They certainly don’t carve pumpkins here (Halloween). In fact, one of my teachers thought that we were crazy even talking about carving a pumpkin… “why would you waste a perfectly good vegetable like that? Don’t you know it makes a luxurious soup that is only enjoyed by the rich?!” Our friend, Lizbeth, saw the pictures of my sister and her kids in the pumpkin patch and just didn’t understand why you would pose your children for a photo with food and hay?!
3. Can't buy cranberry sauce, either. They don't even know what a cranberry is.
4. I asked about where I could buy a duck (to eat, not as a pet)since they aren't big on eating turkey here. My teacher acted like I had just said, "I would like to eat your kitten, since you won't give me a turkey." She was appalled that anyone would eat a duck. Evidently, ducks are only for swimming in the pond at the park, not ever for eating. Sorry... guess we'll stick to chicken.
5. No one here has ever seen or heard of cornbread, so dressing/stuffing is not normal here. I think I can get cornmeal at the store and make my cornbread from scratch and actually make dressing/stuffing.
6. Another note on the turkey... my teacher asked me to explain to her how you would cook a turkey. I told her that you can bake it in the oven (which is impossible here because ovens are tiny) or you can fry them (Cajun-style). This was intriguing to her, in a bizarre way, and she asked to know more. That is where the conversation got out of hand and became something out of a horror movie... trying to explain in Spanish about injecting the turkey with spices using a giant syringe (her eyes got big and frightened), then dropping the turkey in boiling oil in a giant pot over a flame/burner in the backyard... if you think about it, this sounds much like a really bad scarey movie!
As for Christmas, I don't know a whole lot about the customs and traditions here for Christmas yet. I know that most people already have their houses decorated and their trees up... it is kind-of a November 1st thing to put up your Christmas decorations. Santa has been in the mall for a couple of weeks already (by the way, Santa speaks Spanish... go figure!). The Costa Ricans are BIG on decorating for Christmas. I know that they give gifts and they eat a big Christmas dinner, but you can't do gifts or dinner until midnight on Christmas Eve. Other than that, I don't know much yet. I'll fill you in when I know more.
Just a side note on food... a missionary friend received a package of sunflower seeds in the mail from home. This is one of his favorite snack foods and he was very excited to receive them. He was eating them in class and our teacher saw him and asked to see what he was eating. Upon looking at the package and the contents, our teacher looked at our friend (with a very disturbed look on his face) and said, "These are for birds. Why are you eating these?" Makes me wonder about the foods we eat and take for granted... I wonder how other cultures see us and our eating habits? Hmmmm.......???????