Carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds in Mexico

As our neighbor and heavy consumer of American culture, Mexicans have incorporated a little Halloween into their Day of the Dead (Nov 1 & 2) festivities. Some kids will go trick-or-treating and wear costumes beyond the Day of the Dead tradition of calavera faces and catrina costumes but carving pumpkins is still exclusively American. When backpacking trough Mexico and Central America in 2013, my Mexican cousins were elated when I announced we’d be carving pumpkins.

Thanksgiving dinner at the “Chicken Lady” in Nicaragua

I didn’t eat turkey or any other traditional fixings on Thanksgiving. Instead, I spent Thanksgiving with a group of friends from NYC at a San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua legend, the “chicken lady,” The “chicken lady” serves traditional fare: roasted chicken, fried (savory) plantains and gallo pinto (rice and red beans).

Christmas at an American-Argentine household in El Salvador

During the lead up to Christmas, my friend and I went Christmas shopping, wrapped gifts, made sugar and chocolate chip cookies and went to Antiguo Cuscatlán to see their magnificent square all lit up. From Mexico to Patagonia, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve and at midnight every household sets off fireworks. The Christmas Eve sky could melt the grinch’s heart.

For Christmas Eve dinner, we had my friend’s family’s traditional German soup. My friend’s nanny said in her Salvadoran town they mostly eat chicken. People don’t eat turkey because “they’d steal them.” Later, we watched Love Actually and placed Santa’s gifts around the tree. In El Salvador the gift exchange happens on New Year’s. On Christmas, we ate Argentina’s staple, Panettone for breakfast, drank apple cider for a snack and had turkey for dinner.