Modern day Thanksgiving is for traditions and gratefulness, not a legacy of colonialism

Courtesy of Normal Rockwell
Courtesy of Normal Rockwell

There are people in the United States who are against celebrating Thanksgiving because instead of seeing it as an innocent holiday to give thanks, they view it as a reminder of the continued suffering of Native Americans. These groups want to equate celebrating Thanksgiving to commemorating white supremacy, cultural genocide and a legacy of European colonialism.

People who strongly believe in separation of church and state have also shown abhorrence toward Thanksgiving, specifically toward the president’s annual Thanksgiving Proclamation, which they claim is too heavily Christian. They also proclaim that Thanksgiving itself comes from Christian history and should not be a national holiday in a nation without a single religion.

I am not Christian, but I see no issue with giving thanks for what I have. Neither should anyone else of any sort of religious affiliation. Being thankful and grateful for something is not equated to just one religion.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, thankfulness and charity. No one participates in Thanksgiving with the intention of celebrating white supremacy or the suffering of Native Americans. I understand that Thanksgiving originated from the pilgrims’ perspectives and that the traditions, histories and stories are passed down from settlers and not the indigenous people. I know that they glorified the first Thanksgiving as a time of peaceful relations between the settlers and the natives and that it was not like that at all.

Here’s the thing: hiistory is not present; some of the best traditions, holidays and stories come from unsavory origins. Being in the present moment is not an excuse to forget about the unsavory origins and to not find other ways to recognize them. On the other hand, we also do not have to give up positive traditions because they have negative origins. We cannot let this past affect the years of traditions and culture we have built up as a country, as one grand united nation.

We really do not have much in common in terms of culture and tradition. We do not all share a language, a heritage, political views, common foods or much of anything. We are a mixing pot of people from all over the world, building our own traditions. We all came here to find a better life, from the very first pilgrims to my family to those who immigrated here to escape World War II. We cannot just toss such a big tradition aside when we have so little that makes us a special, unique culture all on our own.

As a culture we have built so many traditions around this holiday. Families get together from far and wide every year, students and employees are given time off to celebrate with their loved ones. Everyone gets together, cooks a wonderful meal, eats, laughs, goes to parades and watches football.

It is important for us to have traditions that can be shared no matter where in the world you hail from because it brings a sense of unity, a sense of the American dream. As a little girl I always thought that the perfect Thanksgiving was a representation of everything my parents fought for, everything they went through for my brother and I to live the American dream. Even today, every Thanksgiving when I see the turkey and all my loved ones, I am reminded of how lucky I am, how hard my parents worked for me to be here, to pay for my education and to give me better opportunities.

Another aspect of Thanksgiving that has become a crucial tradition is charity. Thanksgiving is also widely known as a time for charity with many communities having food drives for people who cannot afford a nice Thanksgiving meal. Food banks and food kitchens enlist hundreds of volunteers to cook holiday meals for the hungry and homeless. Giving back to the community and doing something positive has become a deep-rooted part of Thanksgiving.

I am fully aware that Thanksgiving does not take into consideration the losses of Native Americans. However, there are always other ways to celebrate and bring awareness. I know Thanksgiving’s origins are flawed but it has become ingrained in our culture as a day to give thanks for being here, a day for charity, a day for family. It has been turned into a positive tradition, one we should not let go of.

 

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