Keeping Traditions Alive: How This Fil-American Family Celebrates Thanksgiving

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Happy Turkey Day, people! Tell us, what are you grateful for?

While November this part of the world usually means long weekends (thanks, Bonifacio Day!) and that month between Halloween and Christmas, in the U.S., its Thanksgiving—which happens on the last Thursday of November. While some love it for the turkey and all its lovely sides, many others love it for its sacred traditions. After all, Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and a time to think about what we’re grateful for.

But what happens when you aren’t in the U.S.? Does this tradition change? We speak to Modern Parenting’s EIC, Marga Tupaz about why she’s still celebrating this American holiday…

What do you miss most about Thanksgiving?

I miss spending Thanksgiving in the U.S., period. Thanksgiving is a season, not just a one-day event. It always starts right after Halloween and just like Christmas, you see it eveywhere you go. It’s always in winter time, so I also miss the cold weather. I miss all the school traditions, going to the grocery stores and seeing all the Thanksgiving-themed products, decorations and all the glorious Thanksgiving food. All of it. Thanksgiving is just as big a deal as Christmas in the U.S.

What’s it like, celebrating it in the Philippines?

It’s very different to be spending Thanksgiving here. I guess the overall “feeling” of it all isn’t there, and that’s okay because it’s just not a tradition here nor is it part of our culture. Take Christmas, for example. No one does Christmas better than Filipinos in the Philippines in my opinion. We go all out and when I’m the U.S., I miss spending Christmas in Manila so much. And unless one grew up spending Thanksgivings in the U.S. or Christmases here, they’ll never understand.

Why is it so important to your family?

Thanksgiving 2018. Photography: Marga Tupaz

Thanksgiving is important to us because it was something we always celebrated when we were living in the U.S. We did the whole shebang: turkey with cornbread stuffing, ham from the Honeybaked Ham Company, all the sides and fixins, and our favorite — pumpkin pie. Then we’d get up at dawn the following day and brave the Black Friday sales. Standing in line outside Fry’s at 4 am in the freezing cold with a huge thermos filled with hot coffee is my most memorable one yet. Since living in Manila, what we normally do is have a special Thanksgiving dinner. If I remember to order turkey in advance, great. If not, we can always have steak and roasted chicken or ham. A couple of times we got so busy, so we just ate out.

Also, for the last 15 years, Thanksgiving has generally taken on a different meaning for me because my 4th child, the middle boy, Nicolo, celebrates his birthday on November 29. I call him my thanksgiving baby. His birthday celebrations have become our Thanksgivings in a way.

What are your favorite traditions?

Marga’s brood of six

To be honest, with a family as big as ours, and so many schedules to juggle, we don’t have any set “traditions” because it’s always changing and evolving. There was a time we were going to Baguio for several years in a row, between Christmas and New Year, to celebrate my youngest son’s birthday there. But that stopped because one year, we sat in traffic for almost 10 hours each way. The kids also grew up and started making their own plans. I remember last year, we flew in from my son’s football tournament in Bangkok two days before Thanksgiving and in December, we flew in from Malaysia for another football tournament two days before Christmas Eve! That was crazy.

Today, it’s Thanksgiving. And with COVID, I just ordered food to be delivered and we are spending it quietly here at home. I’ve learned to just roll with the punches, adjust and not get so hung up on celebrating certain things at certain times.

Is it harder to celebrate Thanksgiving here?

In the U.S., Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday are holidays — hello 4-day weekend. For us here, it’s tougher because it’s business as usual — school night and parents have to work the next day. LOL. But we do have November 30, Bonifacio Day, to look forward to.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, more than holiday traditions, for the last 20 years I’ve been more focused on building a family culture grounded on gratitude, kindness and humility. Years from now when I’m an empty nester, I’ll begin holiday traditions (and strictly enforce and mandate them) just to get my kids to come together a few times a year. But for now, we can holidaze 365 days a year! And that means to give thanks everyday, give presents on random days, do special things anytime, celebrate all the time!

What are you most thankful for?

Marga and her family. Photography: Marga Tupaz

Well, first of all I’m thankful for waking up this morning to a beautiful day, with my husband next to me. And that after 21 years of ups and downs, we’re still here, soldiering on together.

I am thankful for a roof over our heads and for the sustenance we are blessed with. I am thankful for Modern Parenting because it is through this platform that my team and I are able to reach out to other parents and touch lives. I am extremely grateful for family and friends — old and new, near and far, because everyone that comes into our lives is a blessing.

I am most grateful for my 6 children because they truly are my greatest miracles. They are good kids, with good heads on their shoulders. They are kind, respectful, generous, and now that they’re well on their way to adulthood, I’m at peace knowing that they have very bright futures ahead of them, and one another.

And last but not least, I am thankful for the gift of life, and everything that comes with it!

Yes, there’s definitely more to Thanksgiving than turkey and pumpkin pie. For Marga and her family, it’s always a good day to come together and celebrate gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you love stories about celebrating holidays? Check out these articles…

15 Christmas Traditions To Start With Your Family
The Practical Stocking Stuffer Guide
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