We’ve always been taught the “first” Thanksgiving in 1621 was a time of peace, happiness and blessings. Unfortunately, there’s a bit more to the story.
When the Pilgrims had their feast with the Native Americans of New England in the fall of 1621, they were celebrating the fact they weren’t going to die in the upcoming winter because they had a bountiful harvest after a very difficult year. That part is true for the most part, but there is a bit more to the story.
Schools teach the first “thanksgiving” occurred in 1621, but that part is NOT true. For the settlers, a true “Thanksgiving” was a day where you went to church to give thanks to God not just for successful harvests and good blessings, but also battle victories (we’ll discuss this more in a moment). They gave thanks often, rather just one day per year. Native Americans also had their own celebrations long before the settlers arrived.
If this is the case, why did we pick a specific day to be a national holiday?
Because George Washington said so in 1789.
The Thanksgiving “holiday” was only celebrated occasionally from 1789 until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln formally made it a federal holiday. Even then, the holiday wasn’t what we know it until 1942 when the U.S. Congress under President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday would be held on the fourth Thursday of each November.
What were the settlers so happy about?
Now, back to the part about what the settlers were actually celebrating. Yes, they celebrated harvests, but more so, lest we forget what the celebrated battle “victories” were? They were the often the savage murders, rapes, and plundering of Native Americans resulting from “conquering” their villages up and down the east coast.
Yes, the most American of holidays celebrates the death and dismemberment of, wait for it…the original AMERICANS.
It’s amusing to me that so many people in the United States are incredibly upset about Columbus Day being a holiday, but nobody cares about the truth behind Thanksgiving.
We’re celebrating false memories, rather than what really happened.
Take some time to read about the real history of Thanksgiving. In short, the depopulation of native tribes in the new world is what drove “Thanksgiving” celebrations leading up to 1621, and for the next two hundred years or so into the future. The settlers were exuberant that disease (brought by the settlers) was killing off the natives, making it much easier (and faster) to eliminate them.
Somehow, this celebration of mass genocide morphed into a day of dysfunctional family gatherings, watching football, parades and over indulging on turkey and stuffings. Yes, the day we celebrate today is about symbolism (hopefully you’re not really celebrating the eradication of Native Americans), but every American should know the true origins of this day.
It is what it is, but still, why are we only “thankful” only one day per year?
Horrible history aside, it seems in our society we often forget what happens on the 364 other days of the year. Are we not thankful for what we have then? I’m not saying everyone is like this, but for many people it does hold true. Why do we wait until Thanksgiving to spend time with family and friends and to appreciate what we have?
I’m not trying to ruin your day with a guilt trip, but it’s so important to not forget everyone around us during the rest of the year. There are families who routinely have Sunday dinners together, but those families are the minority. The majority of Americans find holidays and family gatherings to be an inconvenience.
Agreed, it can be a hassle to host out of town guests (or even local guests for that matter). I mean, who want’s to see stinky ol’ crazy Uncle Larry and his annoying wife? Nobody wants them around. And their kids? Uggggh. I know they’re family, but do we have to invite them???
Thanksgiving brings a quote to mind:
“Don’t wait until death to celebrate life.”
What this means is funerals are usually the most common time families come together. This is a sad, but true fact. A funeral brings out the forgotten family members and friends who we haven’t seen in many years. Everyone talks about how the deceased person will be missed and how they wished they had more time with them
YOU DO HAVE TIME BEFORE THEY DIE.
You just aren’t making time.
I’d give just about anything to spend a few minutes with my close family members who passed because I didn’t make enough time when they were around. We take times like Thanksgiving and family for granted. The truth is, those we love won’t be around forever. They could go away in the blink of an eye. There may not be a next Thanksgiving for some of those in your life (as exampled by many of the Native Americans after the “first” Thanksgiving you’re celebrating”).
Even if you’re not willing to invite your long lost relatives to dinner, at least send a text or an e-mail to say hi. If you’re feeling really crazy, maybe even make a phone call. And I mean throughout the year, not just on the 4th Thursday of November!
Also, instead of taking one day in November to volunteer at the homeless shelter, how about we show kindness and compassion other times of the year? Did you know there are still homeless and hungry people on our streets during those other 364 days of the year.
Let others know you’re thinking about them more than just ONE day per year.
As you celebrate the genocide of my direct descendants, truly be thankful for what you have in your life. You’re probably far more blessed than you think, and at best, you’re a heck of a lot better off than many of those who were around for the “first” thanksgiving.
P.S. Save a turkey. Eat a pizza…
Marty Augustine is a writer and entertainer based in Kansas City.
Marty has direct lineage to those who were actually at the “first” Thanksgiving.
And yes, Marty really does eat pizza on Thanksgiving.