While Thanksgiving has its traditions of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, every family interprets it differently. In the immigrant neighborhood of Boyle Heights, the standard American fair joins tamales, rice and beans. Some family dinner tables are crowded with the addition of church friends. Other gatherings may feel less celebratory with the absence of a beloved relative who died. Some celebrate the holiday early to take advantage of the holiday weekend to travel to Mexico.

Boyle Heights Beat student youth reporters shared their unique family and food traditions ”” or non-traditions  ””  each determining to be thankful for on this day.

Veronica Alcaniz, Oscar De La Hoya senior

The making of chicken has always been a Thanksgiving tradition in my family, but with the approach of a new year my mom has decided to change it up this year. The idea of having turkey, instead of chicken, for the first time has me both excited but afraid of the unexpected ”” despite my mother’s promises of it being delicious.

However, no matter how the turkey turns out, I have decided to say that it is amazing, as she will spend around five hours in the kitchen without any help from me. My dislike for cooking started at the age of 12 when I burned myself after attempting to make breakfast. Unfortunately, this does not save me from the other work: the cleaning, opening cans and the occasional mashing of potatoes.

But when the food is finally set upon the table, we all know that the wait has been worth it. We all sit around the table and patiently wait as we all say our thanks and amens.

Melissa Martinez, Roosevelt High School junior

My family and I don’t have a particular Thanksgiving tradition. I remember one time my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving with two other families from my extended family, and it was really nice. I also remember three years ago we celebrated Thanksgiving at church with a pastor we are really fond of; that same day was the day my mother and a close friend were baptized. However, that pastor left to Mexico and so for the past two years we have celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with a few families from church.

The first year I didn’t know what to expect because we had not celebrated any holidays together, only the birthdays we invited each other to, but this was going to be a whole afternoon at their house. It was great. The youth made their own circle, and the parents talked nonstop to each other. Then we made a circle and everyone shared what he or she was thankful for, and then we prayed and ate. I had never had that experience before and I thought it was really amazing. There was turkey, ham, rolls, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, and it all tasted very good. It was a blessing.

This year, my mom is making a turkey for the people who live around the church, and I’m going to help serve. I just hope I can have a great meal with my family, including my aunts, uncles and cousins. Either way, every day is a day to be thankful for.


Leslie Juarez, Roosevelt High School junior

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Typically, on Thanksgiving night the entire family would meet for dinner at my uncle’s sister’s house, where there would be a never-ending table of food.
This year, however, we are having dinner at my uncle’s niece’s house.

Last year, our uncle’s sister lost the battle to breast cancer. Since then, I have the feeling that our family has not been as connected and as close as we were before. Thanksgiving night, I am anxiously looking forward to reconnecting with my family, just like before.

I think what is going to make this Thanksgiving even more unique is that although one member of our family is no longer with us, we still continue the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving together. For me, the smell of the big juicy turkey, fresh baked potatoes, sweet apple and pumpkin pie, tamales, apple cider and, most importantly, sharing a meal together as a family is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Emily Valdez, Roosevelt High School sophomore

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday: the warm houses, catching up with family and, of course, all the food. This year was no different, except for the fact that my family celebrated Thanksgiving three days early. I have to say, I wish I had done it in past years. This year my family and I are spending the rest of this week preparing for our trip to Rosarito, Mexico, with my church on Thanksgiving Day.

So, on Monday I woke up at 6 in the morning to thaw the 14-pound turkey. In the afternoon, when I realized I had forgotten an assortment of ingredients, I dashed off to the store and bought what I needed, without having to wait in a mile-long line.

When I was tired of waiting for the turkey to cook, I called up one of my friends, who came over to hang out. For her, it was just a boring Monday, and she wasn’t doing anything with her family. The turkey cooked relatively fast since we didn’t need a huge turkey for our usual family gathering, just enough for five people.

One of the downsides of celebrating early was that most of my family was working and the usual chatter in the house was pretty subdued. It was a little weird, but it was still wonderful, and the food was delicious. This was the first year my sister and I made dinner all by ourselves, and I can now proudly say that I am thankful I didn’t burn my house down.

Emily Ochoa, Bravo Medical Magnet senior

For many, Thanksgiving is usually a family-filled day that promises a never-ending parade of stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes and sweet pumpkin pie. My family is no exception.

The turkey, stuffed with a variety of spices and vegetables, is the main attraction at the dinner table, and it’s a dish that requires more than a day to perfect. After it’s thawed, marinated and finally placed in the oven, an overwhelming amount of side dishes begin to appear. From the classic mashed potatoes to the rare buñuelos, my mom and I quickly prepare each dish in order to finish dinner in time to greet our guests, which usually consists of aunts, uncles and cousins.

But no matter how fast we work, we never finish in time, and soon our kitchen is raided by women eager to help prepare the large bowls of food.

After the table is set and the sweet aroma of turkey fills the air, my dad begins the “Thanksgiving speech.” The speech consists of a few thanks, followed by an all-around survey of what each of us is thankful for this year. At last, the final person finishes their thanks, amen is quickly said, and the spoons begin to clink against the plates as everyone tries to get their share of food without ruining their fancy clothes.

Once everyone settles down, small conversations spring up within the adult group while the kids try to raise the volume on the television to drown them out. Dessert is served, and hours pass. When the last slice of pie is gone, everyone begins to leave. Small blessings and loud goodbyes swallow the room.

All I’m left with are empty trays and rooms full of scattered plates. I’m full of food, and all I do is turn off the kitchen lights. The dishes can wait ’til tomorrow.


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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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