Celebrating and Learning from Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Day is one of my favorite holidays. This special day, which is celebrated on the last Thursday of November, is more than just turkey and cranberry sauce. It’s a time for gratitude and, like all holidays, to celebrate with friends, and especially loved ones. In addition to being a day of celebration, Thanksgiving Day is a time for learning.

History

In 1621, English settlers known as the Pilgrims arrived in what is now Massachusetts on their ship, the Mayflower. Half of the Mayflower’s passengers survived the first harsh winter. An enslaved Wampanoag called Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to get their own food. He also helped the Pilgrims form a strong bond with the Wampanoag.

Sadly, it’s one of the very few examples of comradeship between Native Americans and European settlers. We often sugarcoat how the Pilgrims actually treated the Native Americans, but they often fought with each other, and the Wampanoag were mistreated and enslaved.

According to history, Governor William Bradford brought everyone together to celebrate the success of the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest in November. However, most of the foods were not the ones we eat on Thanksgiving Day. Their first harvest meal included roasted goose, codfish, corn, and lobster.

Most believe that November 1621 was when the first Thanksgiving celebration was carried out, but it did not become a national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln issued Proclamation 118 in 1863. Many people also believe Thanksgiving Day stems from the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

Thanksgiving Today

Nowadays, turkey is a trademark – and traditional – food for Thanksgiving Day. Others include stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. There are traditions too, including volunteering to serve food, parades like the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and pardoning turkeys.

Although Thanksgiving is a special holiday, it isn’t without its controversy. Most of us see it as a time to celebrate. But to Native Americans, it’s a time of mourning, since the settlers persecuted many of them.

We can celebrate Thanksgiving Day to remember positive times like the famous feast. We can also use the day to remind ourselves to be aware of how Native Americans were treated by the colonists. That way, we can take racism and prejudice seriously and ensure what the Pilgrims did does not recur. We can also learn how to respect and protect nature and the land that belonged to Native Americans long before the settlers arrived.

Thanksgiving Day is a time to be grateful for wonderful things and the people we love. Simply put, celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving is a solid reminder of how we can – and need – to learn from the past and move forward, as well as make way for the positive.

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