NEW YORK - Thanksgiving is a foreign holiday to many asylum seekers who are now living in New York City, but they had the chance to experience new American traditions on Thursday with help from Catholic Charities of New York.
Celebrating holidays with music and good food is nothing new in Latino culture, but the holiday of Thanksgiving is new to them.
"These are people who have just come to New York seeking opportunity here as the pilgrims did 400 years ago," said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York.
The organization hosted more than 200 migrant families for a Thanksgiving lunch at La Plaza Beacon School in Washington Heights.
"They've left desperate situations, so we want them to feel secure here as they try to make a new home for themselves," Sullivan added.
All the usual Thanksgiving fixings were served with a bonus of pernil, pork roast, and arroz con gandules, rice with pigeon peas, so they could savor a taste of home.
Also made available to the families were diapers, sneakers, and other essential items to help them get through the day-to-day. There were also puzzles and toys for the young children to take home.
Through a translator, they explained what this new tradition now means to them."It's to give thanks to God for allowing me to reach this area and also, this is a goal that we have had," said Mar Duran who came to New York City from Venezuela.
"I feel as Venezuelans we should definitely embrace this day and continue to give thanks to God because this is a very beautiful holiday," Belkys Gonzalez said.
Kenichar Romero is 17 years old and came to the United States from Venezuela two months ago. She hopes to immerse in American culture.
"We are immigrants," Romero said. "I want to celebrate American events like Thanksgiving."