Having lived here in here in the “Mainland” away from Guam for many years, the holiday season always brings me mix feelings. By the way, the continuous 48 states are what we refer to as the “mainland” in Guam. I guess we may consider Alaska in that group. I know Hawaii is not counted.
I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving in Guam. I also listened to the stories of the pilgrims every year while I ate Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy. Except there was a twist added. It was a Chamorro –Catholic Twist.
The traditional Turkey dinner was expanded into a full family fiesta feast whose numbers exceeded the entire population of Plymouth and probably the neighboring Indian tribe. The menu would include a roasted pig “lechon roasted “, Roast beef, barbecued chicken, barbecued ribs, fish and various other meat dishes. There is my favorite Chamorro dish Chicken Kelaguen supplemented by Chamorro Red Rice, Escabeche, latiya, ahu, tamales, lumpia, and the list goes on and on.
I miss being part of such a large group of people who are kin. I can see their faces when I close my eyes and think of Thanksgiving get-togethers in the past. I can hear the laughter as the same old family stories were being retold. I can see my uncles barbecuing in the back of the house where they barbecued the endless numbers of chickens while they sipped on their cans of Budweiser. I kept wondering, as a young boy, when I will be qualified or deemed worthy to join that inner circle of men. I always thought that joining the barbecue crew was a rite of passage for every Chamorro boy growing into manhood.
Of course, before we even got to join the feast, my mother made sure we attended church. For my siblings and I, that meant going to Santa Barbara Church in the village of Dededo and attending mass. I swear we were the only members of our entire family clan that did that on Thanksgiving Day. However, every one of my relatives will claim they were Catholics true and blue. I doubt many of them had been to a mass regularly, well except for a funeral and maybe for only 10 minutes of it.
Yes, a Chamorro Thanksgiving is also celebrated in very sunny, tropical weather. There is no snow. However, there have been typhoons. Those have been few and far between.
What I miss most is family. That is truly what it is about and that is what I am most thankful for this season. I have a good family. I will not see my siblings and mother again this Thanksgiving. However, they are in my heart where miles can never separate us.