In the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday about food, family, and gratitude, with an incredibly distorted origin myth (but that's a topic for another post.) At it’s core, however, Thanksgiving is about traditions. Traditions are funny, in that the origins are often murky and they don’t always make sense. Some Thanksgiving traditions are amazing and should never, ever go away, and other traditions are less than stellar.
There are some things about Thanksgiving that are absolutely perfect, most of which involve delicious dishes food or lying on the couch watching TV while succumbing to a tryptophan-induced coma. Thanksgiving is a holiday of gluttony and sloth, which, if you ask me, are the very best of the deadly sins. So before we get to the Thanksgiving tradition that should go away and never come back, it’s important to establish the ones that are awesome and we should consider incorporating into more days of the year (I for one think pumpkin pie should be a year-round treat, agree?)
1. The Delicious Spread of Food
Staring as a Thanksgivin spread will make anyone's mouth water. Between the turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes and. . .
2. Pumpkin Pie
I am immediately skeptical of anyone who doesn’t like pumpkin pie. It is very clearly the best kind of pie.
3. Awkward Dinner Conversations
It just wouldn’t be the holidays without having to sit through painful conversations with your ultra-Conservative uncle. And as much as you may hate them in the moment, they make for hilarious stories.
4. Watching Every Thanksgiving Episode Of 'Friends'
Even non-fans of show can't help but tun in to watch Monica make a fool of herself as a dancing turkey.
If you’re into large men in tight pants crashing into each other, of course. And extra props if your friends and family manage to play a game after stuffing your faces.
6. Sharing Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude can actually have a positive effect on our overall happiness, and Thanksgiving is a great reminder to take a few moments to be grateful for the things and people that we have in our life.
7. Spending Time With People You Love
Any excuse to spend time with the people you care about, whether they’re blood relatives or chosen family, is a good one.
So what’s the one thing that you should stop doing on Thanksgiving?
Stop Sharing The White Washed Origin Story
In the United States, the Thanksgiving origin myth is that Pilgrims who colonized New England and the Wompanoag people, who were Native to the land, shared a celebratory autumn feast in 1621. The story goes that the feast was the Pilgrims’ way of thanking the Native folks for teaching them to farm and given them the skills and knowledge they needed to survive. It is a feel good story of cross-cultural cooperation and friendship, and one that has unsurprisingly been whitewashed for our consumption, and was declared an official holiday by President Lincoln in 1863.
In our home, we recognize the National Day of Mourning, which was declared in 1970 by the United American Indians of New England. This day, which coincides with Thanksgiving, is a day meant to expose the truth behind the holiday and to honor the lives of Native people lost to genocide in the United States. It also shines a light on problems facing Native folks in the present day.
We live close enough to Plymouth, MA to be able to drive down to the National Day of Mourning event to honor the day in person. We also begin our Thanksgiving meal by acknowledging that we are sitting on occupied land and take a moment of silence to pay respect to the lives of Indigenous folks lost to genocide.
However you choose to celebrate the holiday, sharing untrue myths that paint an inaccurate and whitewashed version of our country’s history does nothing but perpetuate the violence and genocide that Native Americans have experienced at the hands of colonizers. It’s time to do better. And it can start by honoring Native people and their history by not sharing the mythical origin story of American Thanksgiving this year.