• Fraser du Toit

Thanksgiving - An Outsider's Perspective

Growing up in a world dominated by North American culture, I was always fascinated by Thanksgiving. What was this orange Christmas where turkeys were both venerated and consumed? Halloween resonated with me personally, and I felt that I got a decent education on the subject from pop culture. Thanksgiving remained shrouded in mystery, until now.



Modern Thanksgiving Traditions - Shopping and Overeating



Before I get to what Thanksgiving actually is, here's my uneducated take on it. As far as I can tell, it has a lot to do with consumerism and the lead up to Christmas, which is apparently under attack. Megastores hold ridiculous sales where people literally trample one another for the opportunity to spend money.

Thanksgiving is about getting together with your family to hear your elder relatives complain about things like liberalism, critical race theory, the war on Christmas, "ethnics", and undercooked poultry.

If memes have taught me anything, it is that every American youth has a mandatory routine during dinner. First they smile politely as their relatives rant, followed by a half-hearted attempt at countering the torrent of conspiracy theories.

They are then accused of being a "pedophile loving liberal" and they pop in their AirPods. At this point, they collectively step outside and let out a sigh. This sigh is what signals the beginning of winter. Bears hear the sigh and know that the time for hibernation has come.

The eccentric aunt then suggests going around the room and naming things they are thankful for. Everyone complies, but the Q-Anon uncle/aunt/grandparents inevitably use it as another opportunity to talk about Adrenochrome.

Eventually, everyone leaves the gathering with a renewed oath to never see their family again. Oh right, there's also Football.


The Origin of Thanksgiving - I Researched This, I Promise


Jean Leon Gerome Ferris  (1863–1930), The First Thanksgiving, 1621
Oh, the gunfire was celebratory, that's normal, I guess

Long ago there was a vast continent populated by numerous tribes. They lived out their complex human lives filled with peace, violence, love, and loss. Everything changed when Europeans arrived en masse and set up villages of their own.

Despite carrying diseases across the sea, the first contact between Americans and Europeans wasn't all bad. Things would certainly take a turn towards genocide later, but at first there were conflicts and alliances.

The very first, unofficial, Thanksgiving was recorded in the journal of William Bradford. He was the first governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts. According to him, the Mayflower, a ship, landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. There the settlers founded a colony and set up farms.

Naming the new colony, Plymouth, after the British port from whence they came. The farms were bountiful, and the next year the colonists had a bumper crop. They decided to celebrate the harvest with a 3-day party.

When the Wampanoag tribe, who had allied themselves with the settlers, heard the Europeans firing their guns in celebratory rapture, they sent soldiers to check it out. Amy Jakober, Senior Communications Officer for First Nations Development Institute, says the Wampanoag likely thought they were marching to war.

Instead, they encountered the first instance of gun-drunk partying. It seems the American obsession with guns started early.

Thanksgiving didn't start there, though. Centuries later, the magazine editor, Sarah Joseph Hale, read Bradford's journal and thought the story was great. She started petitioning the US government to make Thanksgiving a national holiday some time in the 1800s.

Abraham Lincoln finally acquiesced in 1863. Thanksgiving in the USA is on the fourth Thursday of November.


Is Thanksgiving Problematic?



The holiday of Thanksgiving is often targeted for whitewashing American history. Propaganda is taught in schools all over the world. You might not realize that your government has indoctrinated you.

Governments have a vested interest in selling a version of themselves to their citizens. Something to believe in and gather behind.

Apparently, the version of Thanksgiving taught in US schools is light on genocide and heavy on dehumanizing stereotypes about the First Nations Peoples. That's the whole controversy, really.

First Nations People were already civilized before the European colonizers arrived. Europeans, in the centuries following that first party in 1621, systematically destroyed First Nations cultures and committed genocide in America.

That's fairly standard European colonizer behavior, to be honest.

Happy Thanksgiving!




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