Broad appeal of Thanksgiving

Take this holiday into your own hands

turkey dinnerThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I believe giving thanks is a social, and personal good. This Alternet article explains why.

“When Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, first advocated for Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1846, she argued that it would unify the country. In our research, [we] have been able to show that Hale’s vision for the holiday has been largely fulfilled. Inclusivity of people and traditions has been Thanksgiving’s hallmark quality.

“A reason for its broad appeal is that it lacks any association with an institutionalized religion. As one interviewee told us, ‘There is no other purpose than to sit down with your family and be thankful.’

“And after interviewing a range of people – from those born in the U.S. to immigrants from countries like South Africa, Australia, and China – it became obvious that the principles and rituals they embraced during the holiday were universal no matter the culture: family, food and gratitude.”

As the title of the story reads, “How everything about Thanksgiving as we know it was shaped by the marketing industry.” Somehow, the fact that we’ve been steered to eating turkey, cranberry, and pie doesn’t bug me as I suppose it should.

Romancing the holiday

Still, I recognize that there’s an American myth around the holiday. It’s the stuff I learned growing up about the Pilgrims and the American Indians, which makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. The article by Corinne Oestreich in Huffington Post, As A Native American, Here’s What I Want My Fellow Americans To Know About Thanksgiving, speaks to this:

“If I could ask one thing from my non-indigenous fellow Americans when it comes to Thanksgiving, I would ask that you refrain from teaching the romanticized version of the holiday. Read to your children about what it means to be thankful, what it means to heal and be a family. Learn as a family about the tribal nation that is local to where you live.”

In this polarized political environment, sometimes learning “what it means to heal and be a family” seems to be an insurmountable task. Yet, if it is possible – and sometimes it’s not – we try.

“Take time during dinner to recognize whose traditional lands you give thanks on. Take this holiday into your own hands and understand that not every Native will have good feelings about this day, and be accepting of that. We can all choose how we feel about this holiday, but it is always our own choice.”

I suppose this is a bit of a Debbie Downer ending to a holiday post. So it goes.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Broad appeal of Thanksgiving”

  1. The narrative about European invaders and Native Americans sitting down together to share a meal is quite positive and should be enhanced. It shouldn’t make people uncomfortable… why should it? This contrasts deeply with the old cowboy and Indians narrative, for example.

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