By Benjamin Noel
Visiting Opinion Writer
Next to the turkey and mashed potatoes, the Thanksgiving debate is another entree at the table of the holiday zeitgeist. By Thanksgiving debate, I’m not referring to political conversations with your uncle, pre-dinner walk philosophizing, or the argument over the worst Thanksgiving food (sweet potato casserole). No, the Thanksgiving debate is the argument that the holiday itself should not be celebrated. For some insight, let's look at the history of the holiday.
The first Thanksgiving in 1621 signified the alliance between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans. As the story goes, the two parties got together for a feast of deer, fish, game birds, and corn. The holiday has been celebrated since 1789 and starting in 1863 (the same year SMC was founded), Thanksgiving has been an annual holiday in the US. Thanksgiving served as a harvest festival, a day of thanks for battles won, and a day of prayer for the blessings received throughout the year.
This night of harmony, prayer, and thanks has changed with the times. When most people’s livelihoods were more tied into the land they lived off of, prayers for good weather and a good harvest were the highlight of the holiday. Now, the thanks given during this time refer more to the unity of a family, as everyone gets time off from work or school, and can come together for a night of bonding.
Back to the debate. Thanksgiving, a time for bonding and reflectiveness, has, due to pushes for retroactive political correctness, been far overshadowed by the torments Native Americans faced at the hands of Europeans in the following 300 years. People find the concept of celebrating this brief unity between the settlers and the Native Americans as brash and insensitive in light of the following centuries of conflict. Some advocate for removing Thanksgiving from our calendars or turning the holiday into a day of mourning for Native Americans.
While the case against Thanksgiving comes from a meaningful, powerful place, I make the case in support of the holiday. The Thanksgiving of today doesn’t solely represent the first feast, and it barely resembles the harvest festival it once was. Thanksgiving has come to represent family. It is a time of the year in which kids come back home from school, parents get time off of work, and the family is whole for the break. Everyone can work together to cook the meal or feel the wrath of mom when you step foot in the kitchen, whatever tradition is in your household. This holiday is celebrated across racial and religious lines. Everyone can celebrate this feast, many, putting their own cultural twists on the traditional feast. And besides taxes, it is one of the only things that unites every single American.
Much has remained the same since the first Thanksgiving of 400 years ago to the Thanksgiving of today. But so much more has changed. While we understand the history of the night and respect those who have been disenfranchised, the holiday has transformed into something beautiful and worth celebrating for 400 more years.
Ryan Ford '23,