When I was little, they taught me in school that the first Thanksgiving was a feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Indians, and it was a celebration of peace and friendship. We would take construction paper and cut out Pilgrim hats and feathers, and turkeys and cornucopias, and feel all warm and fuzzy because of all this love and cooperation.
I hope they don’t perpetuate that myth in schools anymore. Even as a kid, that description struck me as a little weird. Which tribe? No one could or would ever say. And why would Native Americans be thankful that we invaded their land, spread disease, and basically took over? Would you be wanting to party if someone did that to you? Gimme a break.
In fact, as long as there has been farming, people have celebrated the end of a successful harvest in one form or another, all over the world. And these celebrations, by definition, came about sometime at the end of harvest time, which in this climate falls in the middle of autumn. In fact, until Abraham Lincoln decreed it, various states celebrated on different days each year. So no one really knows when the first Thanksgiving was.
Also, as long as people have had some type of spirituality, they’ve given thanks when things have gone their way. A fruitful harvest. The birth of a monarch. And sometimes these celebrations were more nefarious. For example, one such celebration occurred in 1588 after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. I’m sure the Spaniards weren’t feeling quite as thankful. Victory in battle was often a time of thanksgiving, losers be damned.
An obvious candidate for the precursor of our current holiday, and one that very few of us know about, is described in this article. There was a horrible slaughter of 700 members of the Pequot tribe in which men, women, and children were surrounded and brutally “subdued”. An annual day of Thanksgiving was then declared by the slaughterers, members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It’s no wonder that many Native Americans have a problem with this holiday.
Nowadays, I don’t think most non-native people look at Thanksgiving as some sort of historical event that we are commemorating. And the majority of us are too far removed from our food chain to actually be giving thanks for a successful harvest. We just look forward to the day off, the great big meal, and the football. We also either anticipate or dread the family visitors. Another more depressing trend these days is the glorification of the need some people feel to shop.
People may try to twist this day into some warped justification of genocide, or some attempt to feel patriotic about our occupation of this land, or the desire to take advantage of a really big sale, but the reality is, we’re celebrating the same way the ancient Egyptians did, and probably the same way even more ancient peoples did long before the Egyptians existed, because a good harvest has always meant the difference between life and death, and that’s definitely something to celebrate.
I must confess that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Good food, good company, no gift-giving pressure. Just a time to be grateful for love and abundance. That is how I choose to celebrate the day.
I refuse to take this time to glorify and perpetuate the misguided deeds that lead to this country’s founding. Regret for our brutal past is with me year ‘round, even though my family didn’t get here until the 1930’s. It doesn’t merit a feast.
If you choose to give thanks on this day or any other, Happy Thanksgiving.
An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along on this day and every day. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5