Thanksgiving, while enjoyed by most, certainly has its critics. The reasons why are evident, especially when hearing the horror stories that occur during the household festivities. Thanksgiving is a celebration centered around disorder, with sharp knives, hot ovens and the majority of your family under one roof. No matter how well you get along, things are bound to get chaotic. This is “Unpopular Opinions,” a Lariat column honing in on opinions that are so unpopular that the titles alone make one rethink every thought that has crossed their mind. For this entry of Unpopular Opinions, prepare to dive into the hysterical conflicts and untold truths that Thanksgiving holds.
Piling all of one family into a house can be stressful. After facing the initial urgency of preparing mass amounts of food in a minimal amount of time, you are actually expected to talk to the family not currently living under your roof. Kids are greeted by relatives with discussions about their grades and school work on the few days that they have off. Families break off into cliques and, despite the perfect pictures posted on Facebook, don’t actually interact the way families do in every sentimental holiday advertisement. And who could forget the events of the day after Thanksgiving? There is nothing more American than giving thanks for all you have before darting off to tackle people for discounts on Black Friday.
For some the feast is about fueling up for campouts at Best Buy, but to the general population the stuffing holiday is thought to be a celebration of pilgrimage and survival of harsh conditions in a foreign land. Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until 1863, during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. The gruesome events leading up to the original meal were pushed aside to ease the minds of American citizens. It is believed that the food fest was declared with the intent to calm citizens during the turmoil of the civil war.
The basic foundation upon which Thanksgiving began was not as cheerful as it appears in our childhood textbooks. The settlers of Massachusetts Bay, finding themselves in a new bewildering environment, made a treaty with the nearby Wampanoag tribe, both parties agreeing to provide protection for one another. However, by the time the first Thanksgiving meal is thought to have occurred, Native American tribes had seen a colossal decline in their population due to European diseases brought by said settlers.
After conflicts over a treaty with another nearby tribe, the Pequots, John Winthrop, the Massachusetts Bay Governor at the time, announced what is now known as the first Thanksgiving meal. Winthrop declared, “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.” And the pilgrims did just that, celebrating the genocide of the Pequot tribe and betraying the natives who helped them survive long enough to enjoy their feast.
Thanksgiving values are not what they once were and now consist of overeating and football, but the truth is many Americans are not aware of what the Thanksgiving holiday symbolizes. And as if we haven’t taken enough from the Native Americans, we insist on appropriating their culture, encouraging children to create feather adorned headdresses and run around like “savages” as we giggle, record and post it.
The traditions and practices of Thanksgiving are very different in the present time, but its rotten roots must be acknowledged instead of under the rug as it has been for years on end.
Photo by Dianne Rosete on Flickr