• Nuts filled sweets

      Arabic sweets (Photo – debdebdeb)

      Since coming to America over 30 years ago, I have enthusiastically embraced the American holidays as much as I have my new home. An extremely nice American family whom I met my first year in California “adopted” me, and I have since been invited to every major holiday or event hosted at their home.

      By Wafic Khalil

      This year I got an Evite to an Arabic Thanksgiving dinner via email. It has been 25 years since I have been to one. I felt guilty for abandoning my American family’s Thanksgiving dinner for another that is, I have to confess, a guilty pleasure of mine; I am greatly looking forward to attending.

      What, you might ask, takes place at a typical Arabic Thanksgiving dinner? Allow me to list ten of my favorite things. This is what I want and will expect at this dinner:

      1- The political discussions that take place before dinner

      An assortment of middle eastern dishes

      Middle Eastern Appetizers (Photo – Safsaftunis).

      These are always polite discussions by very gentle and good-natured people. I’m always reminded and inspired by Arabic civility and geniality!


      2- The music

      People line dancing

      Arabic line dancing

      Guys and girls (especially guys) belly dance to a series of loud songs that seem to the untrained ear to be one long, never-ending song spanning an hour.


      3- The American-born aunt whose cooking everyone dislikes

      A yellowish disgusting colored dish

      Mac and Cheese (Photo – Annie Mueller).

      Aunt Betty loves to cook and always brings with her a dish for everyone to sample. Her Arabic cooking is awful.

      Usually one or two cousins will end up leaving the party with an upset stomach, only to invite her again to one of their events the next time around.


      4- Arak

      A mikly colored alcoholic drink

      Arak (Photo – abufares.com).

      The traditional alcoholic beverage of Lebanon, Arak has been adopted by the rest of the Arabic countries and will flow freely. It is a highly alcoholic spirit packing 50 to 53 percent alcohol and sometimes more if it is brought “homemade” from the old country.

      Usually the kids ask to get their first small taste of it, are revolted, feign vomiting, and happily resume drinking soft drinks.


      A man dan woman arguing

      Arguing (Photo – Craig Loftus).

      5- The husband and wife that hate each other

      While this phenomenon exists in every family, I believe theirs is a unique Arabic version. Although they hate each other, they will feign affection, constant jab at each other and smile all the while making the situation more awkward.

      Bring out more Arak!


      6- The newly converted vegetarian

      Raw meat dish

      Raw Kibbeh (Photo – joefoodie).

      Usually a newly westernized cousin cannot help but comment on the dajaj, a plump chicken which is the Arabic version of a turkey, and Kibbeh (raw meat), and how wrong it is to eat a fellow creature.

      Aunt Betty rolls her eyes!


      7- The kid that everyone dreads

      A kid sticking out his tongue and holding his nose

      Brat kid (Photo – mmntz)

      You know this kid. He’s the spoiled child that no one can control. He fights and bullies other kids and spills juice on the new furniture and carpet.

      His parents occasionally reprimand him by saying, “Bas baba (Daddy, stop it)!” When things escalate, they look at him and yell, “Baba, I said BAS!”

      No chance he will.


      8- The cousin that had plastic surgery

      A woman in a pensive mode

      The nose job (Photo – Pixabay).

      Remember that cousin that looked like Pinocchio? Yup, the Middle Eastern nose is gone, and it’s replaced by a little buttoned one.

      She is the main attraction of the evening with male cousins vying to talk to her while the female ones are gossiping about her newly maxed out credit card debt.


      9- The political discussions that take place during dinner

      Two guys boxing

      Muybridge, Eadweard, 1830-1904, artist (Photo – commons.wikimedia.org).

      These are not to be missed. Emotions are flaring and eyes are bulging. People who are otherwise calm and nice transform into emotionally disturbed human beings.

      Aunt Betty hides the Arak.


      10- The sweets and political discussions after dinner

      A row of sweets

      Baklava (Photo – Alpha, flickr).

      The table is quickly cleared and desserts brought in, mainly Baklava and other delectable sweets. Deserts are prominently displayed on the table, along with a bowl of exotic fruits.

      This is the best time to have sweets, and lots of them, may I add! By now, most attendees have moved their political discussions to the latest war of the region and its aftermath while reminiscing about the good old days. There is plenty of time to go for a second helping.

      I was the first to reply to the Evite. A wild Middle Eastern show and dinner will contrast with all the benign Thanksgiving nights I have spent during the past 25 years. I also enjoy my American family’s Thanksgivings, but they have to carve the turkey without me this year.

      This article has been updated from its original publication, Nov. 24, 2014.

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        • Wafic Khalil

          Wafic Khalil is the Editor in Chief of Colorado Boulevard. He leads content development and design for our newspaper, e-newsletters, website, and live events, as well as the overall direction of the paper. An accomplished artist in film and music, he has a Bachelor’s in film and video from MassArt and a Master’s in Fine Arts from CalArts.

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

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      1. nadia bazzi says:


      2. Mike Pashistoran says:

        Wild & interesting. Suddenly, I’m hoping 1 day I get invited to an arabic “ThanksGiving!”

      3. Robin Southworth says:

        A middle eastern Thanksgiving sounds AWESOME! Have a grand time. 🙂

      4. SezMe says:

        I love this article. I wish I was invited to the festivities.
        This brought back memories of Thanksgivings at our Jiddo and Sittoo’s house many, many years ago.
        The men would eat the raw kibbee and leave a small amount for the women to finish off. The Arak would come out along with the hummus and baba ghanoush. Then the turkey would follow along with all the trimmings. We children would be in another room at the childrens table.
        Once finished, Sittoo would put on the Arabic music and begin dancing in the living room while the men went into the den to play their annual card game of either Bossraah or 45’s.
        And yes the annual argument would ensue over the hand of cards that were dealt. Uncles Louie and Joe would argue over Lebanon and Jiddo would tell them to either sid boosik (shut up) or leave the house….
        Thank you Wafic for reminding me of the wonderful Thanksgivings of yesteryear.

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