Thanksgiving is not a holiday observed in Trinidad. Individual families may host a 'thanksgiving' to mark a particular blessing they have experienced, such as moving into a new house, the birth of a child, a graduation or someother milestone.
We arrived to live in Trinidad in September of 1993. We had 2 55 gallon drums, a three meter crate and about 6 suitcases that contained everything we brought with us. We lived with friends for the first two weeks while we looked for a place to rent. Our friends helped us look for different houses, made suggestions of which neighborhoods they thought would be safe (there is, unfortuantely, a pretty high rate of burglaries, being American significantly raised the chances of being burglarized).
We found a place and got settled in. It was pretty comical with no furniture. Our barrels and crate had not arrived and we hadn't had a chance to purchase furniture yet since we were still trying to get a bank acount set up...a surprisingly difficult and frustrating process. We had a mattress on the floor, Diana's port-a-crib, some borrowed folding chairs, and borrowed pots, pans, and place settings.
We waited several weeks for our shipment to arrive. In the meantime, we procured some basic furniture both used and new. We finally got that bank account set up. We learned our way around the city we lived in. A couple families had offered to help us get around since we had no car yet. Even though there is good, cheap public transportation we took them up on the offer many times because they helped us learn our way around and gave us good advice about local services. Eventually our shipment arrived and we were thrilled to be able to unpack it and really get set up.
Three different families had become friends, our wonderful neighbors had been incredibly welcoming and helpful. They'd helped us get set-up, shown us around, told us where to find bargains, warned us of dangers, loaned us needed items, brought us food, taught me how to cook local dishes, vouched for us so we could get bank accounts and utilities, answered every silly question we had about adjusting to life in Trinidad, laughed and cried with us.
November arrived and we were feeling a little sad about not being with family for the holiday. Big turkeys were not exactly common in Trinidad but I managed to find one and most of the necessary ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. We decided we wanted to share it with our new friends who had helped us so much. They were all happy to accept the invitation and taste a traditional American meal. I was excited to have them join us.
Three families arrived, I laid out the spread, we blessed the food, I explained what each dish was, and we each took turns sharing things we were thankful for as we dug in to the food. Now mind you, a Trini does not feel they have eaten their big meal of the day unless they have had rice. The six year old son of one friend surveyed the turkey, candied yams, filling, corn, bread, beans, gravy, apple pies, pumpkin pies and cried in horror, "But Mummy! We ain't have rice!!" We all had a good giggle over that.
As everyone ate we enjoyed the company of our new friends and stopped missing family quite so much. One person asked why exactly we celebrate Thanksgiving. We explained the search for religious freedom by the Puritans, the difficult Atlantic crossing, the harsh conditions they faced upon arrival, and how their survival was made possible by the local people who helped them adapt. I had been so grateful for these people who had helped us so much, but it wasn't until the telling of the roots of Thanksgiving that it struck me how we were capturing a bit of the same spirit as we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Trinidad. It still stands in my memory as the most special one I have ever celebrated.