Younger generations should still celebrate the holiday despite the underlying problems behind it.
Thanksgiving has never been a holiday I love. Maybe it has to do with the literal feast held in the middle of the day consisting of foods I don’t particularly enjoy, or the forced spirit of thankfulness that surrounds the days leading up to the big event — mainly pressure from school insisting we be thankful for a break. Whatever the reason may be, I have never been actively excited for the holiday.
There was always an element of this holiday that I found troublesome. As I grew and learned more about history, I was able to verbalize and justify what it was. It can, after all, be seen as a pretty contentious holiday. In elementary school, teachers wanted to paint a picture of pilgrims and Native Americans sitting together, breaking bread and singing kumbaya, when the reality of Thanksgiving is less cheery than the turkey cut-outs we colored would suggest.
What is left out of the story of the first Thanksgiving is the problem with colonialism. The narrative leaves out centuries of history about the Native Americans living in America before the pilgrims migrated over, and paints a picture of the Wampanoag tribe welcoming and teaching the pilgrims how to live in the new world. But in reality, an alliance made out of necessity was characterized by spread of disease, exploitation of land and resources, and war. Instead, school pageants want to celebrate the collaboration of the two by coming together for a successful harvest.
Regardless of its historical significance, the idea of one sole day in the year being devoted to thankfulness is odd. To me, it seems that anyone who has ever owned or loved anything is given reason to be thankful any day of the year. If anything, people should be reflective throughout the year of what they’re thankful for, which gives the holiday no reason of significance aside from historical relevance and the feast of, again, foods that are subjectively not great.
I figured I was alone in my opinion on the holiday. I decided to take to Instagram to see what others thought. In a question simply stated, “Is Thanksgiving a necessary/important holiday?,” people shared their opinions. To my surprise, the result concluded that 54% of participants were in favor of Thanksgiving. Those against the holiday addressed the history surrounding it, where the focus is directed now, and the food as being some of the reasons they believed it was a problematic holiday.
I agreed with all of the negative issues expressed. However, even with my usual distaste of the holiday, it is still something worth celebrating — if not for the reasons history has been celebrating it, then for the reasons we make it worth celebrating.
Some of the positive reasons as to why people like Thanksgiving are rest, spending time with loved ones, eating delicious food and supporting organizations that give back to the community. The more responses I read, the less people actually cited traditional Thanksgiving aspects as a reason to celebrate — a good indication to me that people realize thankfulness is a yearlong endeavor.
A friend of mine described it as “a landmark” in their year. Being an adult can be so mundane and horrible; it’s a break from normal life. It’s a chance to recognize all the things that are taken for granted throughout the year. It’s a day to remind us of all the things that make life worth living. That is why I believe it is worth celebrating, especially for us younger generations who recognize the problems with the holiday.
For the most part, I agree with those in favor of Thanksgiving. As generations grow, the meaning behind long standing holidays and traditions change in translation to fit the values of what they believe. I don’t think anyone in my generation is going to disagree that there is a glaring issue behind the way Native American history and Thanksgiving was taught to us. But we have been able to acknowledge it and celebrate the holiday by emphasizing the aspects that are valuable to us.
I don’t believe Thanksgiving ever meant anything to me, and as a child I couldn’t explain it, which is the reason why I disliked it. More recently, Thanksgiving has become something else to me. While I have never been in love with the holiday, it is a meaningful day because I get to spend time with my grandmother. Some of my fonder childhood memories of this holiday involve her in it. She passed away last year. While I approach this upcoming holiday with the absence of her, I am especially thankful to have learned love and grace from her, and celebrate how those aspects are applied in my life today.