I don't know whether I'm a patriot or not. I know I'm not a 'rah rah' jingoist. But I do live in America and have dual citizenship (US and Philippines) and I have a lot of love for this country. So, last week, when I heard reports of how Black Friday has actually turned into Black Thursday, I was saddened. This is not new, however, with stores opening its doors at midnight for early Christmas shopping deals in recent years. This yearm however, shops are opening as early as 8pm and, for me, this is just not cool.
Holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are largely family affairs. It some cases, family from parts near and far, but whom you don't see on a daily basis, come by. It's a great time to spend with these individuals and for one's kids to really get to know their relatives. One can argue that going shopping as a group can be a family outing but, come on, let's get real. And, for the United States, Thanksgiving is such a unique holiday. It's one of THE important national holidays - like July 4th (when the country became its own) and Columbus Day (when it was discovered), which, sadly, seems to have gone by the wayside.
I find it a little funny, then, that I, an immigrant, is blogging about the glory of Thanksgiving. Most immigrants, I think, form a bond with July 4th. That day, after all, is when America became its own nation, independent from Britain, and meshes perfectly with the immigrant ideal of coming to America, breaking away on some level from the immigrant's native land, to form his or her own way in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' Thanksgiving, though, is something I didn't grow up with in Hong Kong. I'd heard about it and studied about The Mayflower and The Pilgrims but that was it. Hong Kong, in my youth, was a British colony and I'm Filipino so Thanksgiving wasn't something we celebrated. (We did, though, take some of Thanksgiving's traditions such as eating a turkey with stuffing, which my mother learnt from her German-American father, into Christmas).
So, perhaps, since it was something new to me, it became something special.
Every year, going back to when I was single and still living in my parents house in South Orange, I watch The Macy's Parade on TV. It's fun, exciting and helps bring in the holiday season. Now, married and a father, I do that with my wife and son. We're establishing our own traditions and, maybe, my son will continue them. Who knows? After the parade, we watch the dog show and then, as the bird is cooking, we go for a long walk. I think, for me, Thanksgiving became extra special because it was a holiday when my parents and I got to be together. Being the youngest, with two married sisters in other cities and a brother in Manila, a lot of the years before I got married and before my folks moved back to Manila were spent with just the three of us. More often than not, they would be in Manila for Christmas with my brother so Thanksgiving became our time.
I think becoming a father, too, made me appreciate Thanksgiving; not just as a family holiday but as an American holiday. My son, like me, has dual citizenship but he was born and is being raised in the United States (unlike me). He's the first generation of natural-born Americans in my immediate family (one my sister's has three daughters, all born in the US, and while she is part of my immediate family her husband and children are not). Add to this that I am an immigrant who has difficulty in knowing where to call home - Philippines (where I was born, hold citizenship, and I see myself ethnically as a Filipino), Hong Kong (where I was raised from 9 months to 16, where my heart calls home, and a city that tugs on the Chinese blood given to me by my paternal grandmother) or New Jersey, USA (where I've lived the last 28 years, hold citizenship, and experienced many of life's defining moments) - and who has a strong sense of loss and displacement, I feel it's imperative that I forge a sense of belonging and roots for my son. My son was born in 2008, in America, and I want him to be able to say, unequivocally, where he's from. When I'm asked where I'm from, I'm always uncertain how to respond.
Also, in 2008, the first minority president was elected. Barack Obama, half black and half white, became our president and, yes, I voted for him. I liked what he had to say. I'm not a die-hard Democrat and I'd vote Republican if I thought the candidate would do the best for me and if that would, in turn, be the best for my family. In 2008, Obama made me believe he was that candidate. I felt the same way in 2012. But, more than his goals and policies, I felt a connection to him - as a biracial human being. In a way, I felt there was finally someone who would, on some level, put minorities and multi-ethnics somewhere close to the front of his thoughts. Furthermore, he has a strong Asian connection, having lived in Hawaii and Indonesia and he has Asian relatives. So, again, he was someone I, as an biracial immigrant citizen of this country, could relate to. Lastly, Obama spoke about - and speaks about - Americans taking care of Americans, crossing the aisle from the Democrat side of government to the Republican - and that is the kind of world I want my son to grow up in and, hopefully, influence. No man is an island and we should all watch each others' backs.
So, it is with this view of America - a 'new' America, if you will - and my American-born son and the special quality Thanksgiving has for me that I count down to Thursday and celebrate what I regard as the best of American holidays and usher in the holiday season. Thank you America for all you are and all you've given me and for what you will give my son.
God bless America and Happy Thanksgiving