Thanksgiving in Costa Rica

By Maya Hendricks

I never saw Thanksgiving as a very special holiday. I don’t know why I’ve always felt indifferent on Thanksgiving, perhaps it was my excessive pickiness as I child but Thanksgiving just wasn’t that big of a deal to me. I never looked forward to it and it was never hyped up as much as other holidays in my household.


Some friends and I at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Despite this, I guess the saying “you never really appreciate something until its gone” really applies here because for a holiday that I never paid much attention to I suddenly find myself missing now that I’m not at home to celebrate it with my family.

There are many more people in my USAC program that take Thanksgiving way more seriously than I do. Thanks to those Thanksgiving enthusiasts I was able to have Thanksgiving in Costa Rica. Though it wasn’t on Thanksgiving Day, it certainly had all the trimmings. I was really surprised at how all the people in our programs carried through their part in our potluck style meal. Someone brought the utensils, another brought the desserts – even if someone didn’t know how to cook they just donated money to be spent on other things needed for our meal.

Some of these items were not easy to come by, such as cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree, or green beans but the turkey was definitely the most difficult. Not so surprisingly, whole turkeys are not that popular in Costa Rica and they often cost quite a bit of money. As did ours, I am honored to say I got to find out what a $180 dollar turkey tastes like, and it was delicious.

Would I ever spend that amount of money on a turkey? No.

Although now I get to say I ate a $180 turkey and pretend it was some sort of fancy, corn-fed, organic bird but it was probably just an overpriced Butterball.

All in all, our “USAC Thanksgiving” was a really nice experience. It was a rainy and gloomy day but everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Everyone got dressed in nice outfits, a big switch from the regular shorts and hiking shoes. We were picked up from our host university, tin trays of food in hand, then we were bussed to a really nice country club in the mountains that overlooked Heredia. After arriving, we all sat side by side in a long set of cloth-covered picnic tables.  We waited as our USAC advisors carved, or should I say butchered, the turkey and ham.  We took turns serving ourselves around the small table of food that was set out and said a small prayer before we began eating. We talked, sang, took group pictures, and all pretended to like each other. We ate all the Thanksgiving necessities – turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

In my opinion it was a pretty typical Thanksgiving that I am grateful to have had here in Costa Rica.

Maya Hendricks is junior from Chicago, IL majoring in interdepartmental business and Spanish at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica on the USAC Heredia program.

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