In the United States, Americans love the holiday season. After Halloween ends, November brings with it Thanksgiving, a time for everyone to dig in to good food and to be with family.
However, Thanksgiving is being glossed over, because as soon as Halloween ends, stores and malls don’t get decorated with turkeys and fall leaves, but rather Christmas bows and ornaments.
It’s a shame, because that connection with family is the main draw of the holiday. The food is only a backdrop to friends and loved ones freeing their schedule and having a good time, appreciating everything and everyone they hold dear.
Shops like the Disney store website have a holiday-themed tag, and are full of Christmas items but nothing Thanksgiving themed. Walmart’s website has a Holiday Checklist, but while kitchen essentials for Thanksgiving are advertised, there are already Christmas items slowly making their way to the top of the page.
Even a hallmark of the holiday, the famous Thanksgiving break for students and teachers alike across the states, has been cut down to four days as Cal State Fullerton still has classes on Monday.
This a nightmare for those that go out of state to visit relatives for the week and shows how much Thanksgiving has fallen from grace as a major holiday.
There are reasons why this is occuring, one being the connection between the holiday and its connotations with colonialism. It’s apparent that as people become more knowledgeable about early America, more are able to recognize the hypocrisy of seeing Thanksgiving in a good light.
This is primarily the reason many cities across the U.S. have chosen to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day over Columbus Day, to show not only that Christopher Columbus was a terrible man who did awful things both to the Natives and Spaniards, but to celebrate the cultures damaged by colonialism.
Jessica Stern, a professor of history and acting chair of the department at Cal State Fullerton, said Thanksgiving has been “idealized” as a frozen moment where it’s depicted as a multicultural moment of “everyone loves each other” while ignoring the strife against Native Americans at the same time.
This is the killing blow to Thanksgiving; it tries to encapsulate all of Native relations with colonists in one meeting, but does nothing to accept the dark side of colonialism, be it armed conflict, displacement or rampant sickness. It can end up appearing like a romanticized mess, and the public doesn’t buy it anymore.
However, that does not mean Americans should cast the holiday away like garbage. The meaning behind that first meeting was one of mutual respect despite their differences, of Plymouth settlers and the Wampanoag tribe breaking bread with one another.
Stern said the power dynamics of the Wampanoag being in charge made some, like Gov. William Bradford, possibly feel uncomfortable at first, yet they were able to get over these differences in culture to have a day of peace and respect for one another. In today’s environment, that is a potent message.
Thanksgiving shows us that people can still find companionship with one another despite that. The ability to accept somebody’s differences and welcome them to the table is necessary to live life in a meaningful and diverse way.
America has always been known as the melting pot of the world, and the best stews are those where all the flavors get to know each other. It’s that Thanksgiving lesson—acceptance—that gives America something to hold onto.