Thanksgiving different in New Mexico

By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers

While Thanksgiving usually brings to mind canned yams, Pilgrim hats and cranberry stains on a white lace tablecloth, things may be celebrated a little differently in Eastern New Mexico.

That’s because everything’s done a little differently in Eastern New Mexico. One can start by analyzing the menu, which is sure to contain a secret ingredient — chiles.

“Of course the Pilgrims didn’t cook with chiles, nor did the Native Americans who befriended them,” writes Nancy Gerlach, the foods editor at, “but what if the first feast of thanks hosted by Europeans in the New World didn’t happen in the northeast but in the southwest instead?”

Gerlach goes on to explain that could well be a possibility because Don Juan de Oñate, as if anyone named Don Juan needs a last name, was kicking around in Santa Fe at least 20 years before Pilgrims touched down at Plymouth Rock.
Ship logs on Pilgrim vessels also note the travelers were trying to make their way to Clovis but couldn’t find an inlet.

So spicing up the canned yams and cranberries is definitely a must in New Mexico, as is substituting something for the humdrum turkey, which usually ends up so dried up it’s inedible by the time the perpetually tardy Uncle Earl arrives and one can actually begin to eat.

A more exotic bird can surely be found.

Like the High Plains Lesser Prairie Chicken. Of course it would take about 15 of them to fill Uncle Earl’s plate. And word has it they are a little stringy, like duck, from dancing around all the time during their mating ritual.

But that shouldn’t dissuade the real New Mexicans, who are tough enough to drive for miles with a hardened tumbleweed lodged beneath their pickup truck.

Once stomachs are sated, it’s time to kick back and enjoy all the Thanksgiving Day festivities.

Obviously one won’t find the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that romps through the middle of New York City. That in itself isn’t a tragedy, since the crowd is usually so deep the best view is of the back of someone’s head and the Cat in the Hat balloon once got loose and nearly killed some poor woman when it knocked over a light post.

Another longtime Thanks-giving custom — watching the Detroit Lions lose their football game on TV — may also be mute.

While not many states — including Michigan — usually give a hoot about the Lions, New Mexicans have even less of a reason to care, since the state has absolutely no football teams to begin with.

Minus the pigskin and the lethal parade, one is forced to watch the natural entertainment.

Like the howling autumnal winds whipping around a makeshift Pilgrim hat some third-grader spent half the day making out of cardboard.

Or the prairie chickens flitting about, dodging hungry humans wielding axes.

Or Uncle Earl snoozing on the couch right after the meal, with visions of sugarplums, canned yams and hot chiles swirling in his head.