Chile, Canada, the U.S.— How a Family Created Unique Cross-Cultural Celebrations

Modern living apartments at the seaside resort of Vina del Mar, V Region de Valparaiso, Chile
The Color Purple 2023

Chile, Canada, the U.S. — I have lived significant portions of my life in these countries. As an Adult Third Culture Kid (TCKA), I do my best to teach my children to be global citizens. I want them to take pride in all of their cultures, to relish in their roots, rather than tout the benefits of nationalistic exclusivity.

Keeping in mind that every culture is beautiful and ripe with good things and interesting qualities. Each has its own norms, morals, and cultural focus, their own sense of what’s good and not, and no one culture is truer than any other. With Chile, Canada, and the U.S., this was most recently highlighted in our celebrations a few weeks ago.

Red, white and blue chilean flag fluttering on a mast in front of the traditional old wooden building on the hilly street in Valparaiso, Chile, South America

Chile – Fiestas Patrias

As a child of Chilean parents, it was my obligation to show my children our culture. We celebrated Chile’s Fiestas Patrias on Sept.18, which marked the beginning of it becoming its own governing body.

This day usually marks weeklong celebrations. All served with foods like — Empanadas, Chancho en Piedra, Pisco Sours (Pisco -a Grape Brandy), Ensalada de tomatoes, Humitas, Pan amasado, plenty of meats on the spitfire grill, and a “Vinito” or two to keep the chef happy.

Pan Amasado. Chilean Peasant Bread. 
Photo Credit: Vcr2012 
Source: WikiCommons
Pan Amasado. Photo Credit: Vcr2012 Source: WikiCommons

Seafood clams crabs mussels soup. Mariscal in clay bowls. Photo Credit: lblinova Source: Envato Elements

Family and loved ones share this time of celebration and communion. In Chile, everyone eats, sings and dances the national dance “La Cuecha,” spinning themselves into a tizzy of gluttony and memory-making. 

Cueca en la Moneda. Chilean National Dance. Photo Credit: Osmar Valdebenito Source: WikiCommons
Chile – Cueca en La Moneda. Chilean National Dance. Photo Credit: Osmar Valdebenito Source: WikiCommons

We set out to mark the occasion “por los pequeños” (for the little ones)— with my Mom, who was visiting, all to expose them to a bit of their culture’s culinary traditions. Things we made Empanadas de Pino and Empanadas de Queso and had some red wine for the cooks, of course. 

Chileans almost exclusively drink red wines. Most are world-renowned and exported to Europe. Some of the good stuff they keep for themselves. 

Pouring a-glass-of-red-Chilean-wine Photo Credit: @Jacques Source: Twenty20

Chilean … Almost.

Instead of making our own empanada dough this year, we opted to store buy to save time. Unfortunately, due to the GOYA boycott among Latinos, we couldn’t seem to find any in-store. So I picked up some phyllo pastry dough instead … I received plenty of balks and side-eye from the family for it. No worries, I will instill the “proper Chilean way” to make empanadas next year. Penance was offered and taken. 

Thanksgiving: Was Canada First?

Three weeks later, we celebrated Canada’s Thanksgiving. We made it as authentic and traditional as possible with the trimmings and pumpkin pie (minus the Canadian butter tarts.)

However, the turkeys available this time of year were frozen harder than a hockey puck. Instead, we looked for the biggest chicken we could find. More turkey selection wouldn’t be available until November for Thanksgiving when the U.S. celebrates it.

Our dinner had all the trimmings as we reminisced about when I was little, when I asked my Mom to create our first traditional Thanksgiving in Canada. She was clueless about the holiday but did her best to integrate our new culture’s norms into our home.

It was the first time she made a turkey with “jam” (cranberry sauce) on the side …

¿Porque coman Pavo con mermelada?

(Why do they eat Turkey with jam?)

And we had “pun-ken” pie,”

Pumpkin Pie. Photo Credit: Twenty 20 Source: Envato

¿Hacen pastel de calabaza … dulce? …

(They make squash pie … that’s sweet? …)

But we sat as a family and enjoyed these new customs and culture, grateful for all we had. 

My children asked, “why do Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving when there were no pilgrims or Plymouth Rock?” I explained that Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving long before the U.S. did.

Established in 1578 in Nunavut (pronounced Noon-ah-voot.), after an English explorer, Sir Martin Frobisher, landed in Canada’s Northern Territories with his crew from the U.K. Today Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving on the second Monday of every October.

Back Home in the U.S.

Living in the U.S. now, I hope my children learn that all cultures have beauty and dignity. Whether Chile, Canada, or the U.S., all cultures belong. As global citizens, all are welcome and have a seat at the table. It doesn’t matter if it is Empanadas or pumpkin pie; it’s important is that we can all come together as family and country to enjoy the food and communion that diverse cultures can bring. 

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