I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving — and Thanksgiving itself is one of them. Every year Maryknollers in São Paulo — the Lay Missioners, Fathers, and Sisters — gather to celebrate Thanksgiving together. This year we decided to celebrate on a Brazilian national holiday (the Declaration of the Republic, Nov. 15), invite Brazilian friends, and spend the afternoon hanging out, talking, and playing games. Everyone was up for it. All the Maryknollers cooked and prepped and my sisters, who were visiting, brought the cranberry sauce from the U.S. Everyone invited a few friends — roommates, co-workers, former Maryknoll missioners. About 25 of us gathered at Maryknoll Father Dan McLaughlin’s house on the northern periphery of the city.
As we gathered to say grace, Dan had each one introduce themselves. He then explained what he called a very important Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S. — that the men wash the dishes! The only exceptions would be the dono de casa (the host, himself) and one guest who, upon arrival, had declared himself the best dishwasher in Brazil and had immediately gotten to work at the kitchen sink.
We had quite the spread — a total of three turkeys (in Brazil they’re much smaller than they are in the U.S.), stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, squash, green beans, rice and beans (can’t invite Brazilians and not feed them rice and beans), plus some other dishes which I never discovered the names of. The desserts were amazing too, including pumpkin pie that Lay Missioner Katie made from fresh pumpkin.
After dinner, the men washed the dishes. People chatted in small groups, made new friends and new connections, and played games with the kids. We rested in each others’ company, and were thankful. One Brazilian friend, Vitória, said, “O evento teve a cara de Maryknoll mesmo — bastante diversidade, sensação de inclusão, e muito amor!” — “The event had the face of Maryknoll itself — plenty of diversity, feeling of inclusion, and much love!” Just what Thanksgiving is all about.