Portugal,  Portuguese Food

Thanksgiving in Portugal – Planning a New Tradition

I don’t know if there is a thanksgiving holiday in Portugal.  That’s something I’ll have to look into.  I didn’t find a national holiday for it when researching for my holidays post.  Perhaps there is a local tradition for it, but I doubt it.

Thanksgiving as I know it is an American holiday.  For the past few days, I have thought about Thanksgiving and how this year’s holiday will be very different for many people because of the pandemic.  It’s not a wise idea to have large gatherings this year since the spread of the virus is so rampant in the United States.  But that’s a topic for another post.

After I thought about American Thanksgiving traditions, I wondered if Portuguese people know about our holiday and what we celebrate.  That’s when I came up with an idea – to bring our American Thanksgiving with us to Portugal and share it with newfound friends there.

A Thanksgiving Plan Emerges

I wondered if my friend Manuel in Portugal has heard about our American Thanksgiving or if he has any other American friends who may have invited him to their celebration of the holiday.  I’ll have to ask him.

This thought gave me an idea.  What if we share some of our Thanksgiving culture with Portugal?  I don’t mean to the entire country, but maybe we can invite some new Portuguese friends and American expats to have dinner with us.

That way, any American friends who may be missing the holiday can celebrate Thanksgiving as they did back home.  And Portuguese friends can learn about and experience a real American holiday.  I got excited about this plan-that-wasn’t-a-plan-yet and began thinking about the logistics of making it happen.

Logistics May Be Difficult

It’s crazy to begin planning a huge Thanksgiving in another country when I don’t even know anything about what’s available there to make this plan work.  I’ll have to leave the details for after we get there.

I realize that people there will be working on the fourth Thursday of November since it’s not their holiday, so we’ll have to celebrate on the Saturday before or after.  There won’t be decorations available, so we’ll have to make our own.  And I may find it difficult to get all the ingredients I need for the dinner I envision, so we may have to make substitutions.

But we can make this work.  The date doesn’t matter as long as it’s during the late harvest.  My daughter is an artist and my brother and sister-in-law were teachers, so making decorations will be simple.  We can even have children of friends help.  As for the food, I’ll cover that in the next section.

Will we have plenty of space available at home to have lots of people over?  I don’t know that right now, but I’ve been checking out rental places to see what types of apartments and homes are available.  With six of us living there, it will need to be somewhat roomy anyway.  So far, I’ve found small places and large places, some with a yard, some with a balcony. 

We’ll make it work.  One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the family and friends who gather to celebrate.  Thanksgiving is not the place.  It’s not the decorations or the food.  It’s the people.

Planning a Thanksgiving Menu in Portugal

Of course, I want a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.  I hope I can find one there.  Since this isn’t a holiday in Portugal, I don’t know how common turkeys are, especially around this time of year. 

Maybe we can find some pheasant.  If we need to substitute, we can go big! I have no idea how to cook a pheasant, but who cares?  That’s what YouTube is for.  I suppose we can always make chicken.  But I’d rather have a turkey.  It’s my tradition.

Side Dishes

Lots of side dishes.  Stuffing (I hope I can get my mom’s recipe before we go), mashed potatoes, green beans (maybe as a casserole), squash, corn, carrots, rolls, cranberry sauce.  Pies – pumpkin, pecan, apple.

Stuffing (sorry, but I don’t call it dressing) is perhaps my favorite side dish at Thanksgiving.  My mom has the best recipe for it that I’ve ever had, immensely better than Stove Top or some other convenience brand.  It’s always been flavorful, moist, and delicious, whether she’s cooked it in the turkey or a casserole dish.

Potatoes are a mainstay in Portugal.  It’s one of their main crops, so I’ll definitely be able to make mashed potatoes.  I like my mashed potatoes a bit lumpy, not smooth, so that’s how I’ll make them.

Green bean casserole is a mainstay in many American homes for the holidays, so I’ll probably make that.  I know I’ll need some cream of mushroom soup for it though, so hopefully, I can find it in the stores over there.  If needed, I suppose I could make it from scratch, but I don’t know how to do that yet.

I’d love to make acorn or butternut squash with maple syrup, if I can find the real syrup there, of course.  If not, we can have plain squash with butter.

I’ll definitely be making rolls from scratch.  A friend gifted the manuscript of his baking book to me a few years ago.  He taught me quite a bit about baking (in a homemade oven!) over two weeks in the summer when we were camping with a large group of people.  Thank you, Uncle Pog!

Wine from Portugal is a national treasure, so we will certainly have wine.  Dan and Angie can choose the wines we serve.  Perhaps I’ll make a cranberry punch for those of us who don’t drink.

A New Thanksgiving Tradition in Portugal, Perhaps?

If things go as well as I hope they do, maybe we can do this annually over there.  The more friends we make, the more people we can host.  Or perhaps we can have two Thanksgivings in Portugal – one for friends and family and one for homeless people or students far from home.  Since we’ll be in a college town at first, that may also be something to consider.

What are some of YOUR favorite traditions and food dishes for Thanksgiving?  Leave a comment and let us know.  Maybe we can add it to our celebration of Thanksgiving in Portugal.

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