Thanksgiving Day in Panama

This post is also available in: Spanish

By Charles Conn

As the last Thursday of November approaches, so ramp up the preparations across Panama for the celebration of Thanksgiving. While not a nationally recognized holiday in Panama, the long standing presence of Americans and their families who brought their traditions with them during the years of the Canal Zone has ingrained the U.S. holiday into the cultural landscape. Many American expats and Panamanians alike now eagerly anticipate Turkey Day, this year´s celebration on the 28th coinciding with Panama´s observance of its independence from Spain.

Pag 6 Thanksgiving_optThe first acknowledged Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 in the days of the original Plymouth colony when an autumn harvest feast was shared with the Wampanoag Indians. It wasn´t declared an official holiday for more than two centuries until 1863 when in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held the final Thursday of November.

In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to move the holiday up a week in an attempt at spurring retail sales during the Great Depression. This move was met with vehement opposition, and the plan that became known as Franksgiving was cast aside when Roosevelt signed a bill that declared Thanksgiving fall on each fourth Thursday of November.

It is perhaps to Franklin Roosevelt´s namesake and distant relative Theodore Roosevelt that we owe today´s celebration of this most American of holidays in Panama. It was Teddy´s expansionist policies that spurred the U.S. taking over the failed French canal effort, paving the way for American involvement in the affairs of Panama that have become part of the country´s history and national identity.

Many Panamanian´s embracing of this most American of holidays is part of this legacy of U.S. involvement. Of course, it makes good marketing sense as well, with many area hotels offering Thanksgiving Day luncheons and dinners for many years now.

Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays of the U.S. calendar.

Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays of the U.S. calendar.

Whether an American residing in Panama, a Panamanian native, or a Zonian, there are many places to choose from to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal and give thanks for the year gone by.

The InterContinental Miramar will host a lunch for $23 from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. and a dinner with a glass of wine included for $32 from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Contact 206-8888 for reservations.

Hotel El Panama will have live music as part of their festivities with either a glass of champagne or wine included for dinner. Lunch is $25 served from 12 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. while dinner is $30 and is served from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. Contact 215-9927 for reservations.

The Gamboa Rainforest Resort will feature an open champagne buffet dinner for $33 from 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Contact 314-9000 for reservations.

Thanksgiving around the world

The Harvest Thanksgiving Festival (Erntedankfest) is an early October, German festival.

In the West Indian island of Grenada, there is a national holiday known as Thanksgiving Day which is celebrated on October 25. The holiday marks the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of the island in 1983.

In the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November, similar to the pre-World War II American observance on the last Thursday of the month. This means the Norfolk Island observance is the day before or six days after the United States’ observance. The holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships.

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