Food for thought on Thanksgiving

It’s time to trim the turkey and deck the footballs because it’s Thanksgiving season! For many, Thanksgiving is just the run-up to Christmas, and for every other nation except the U.S. (besides Canada’s version), the holiday doesn’t register at all. Thanksgiving has a storied past as it’s traced back to the origins of the United States when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in the New World. The story goes after a brutal winter that claimed many settlers’ lives. The Pilgrim community sat down to dinner to give thanks and reflect on what they had gained and lost in their venture to a new land. The history also tells that the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans shared in the feast, resulting in the two cultures coming together.

The heartwarming story has become ingrained in the United States culture. But it doesn’t encompass the bigger picture that followed the country’s colonization. The sweet narrative of Pilgrims and Native Americans breaking bread has overshadowed the grim reality that the indigenous people of the Americas were pushed out of their native lands and stripped of their culture. At the same time, their communities fell victim to mass destruction – that part was never included in the Thanksgiving elementary school play.

So why do we still celebrate a holiday that painted over the suffering of an entire race of people? Because there’s more to Thanksgiving than that. It’s critical to remember history and learn from its mistakes. Just like Columbus Day has been switched to honor indigenous peoples, Thanksgiving should be recognized as a holiday that acknowledges the history of Native Americans. The first Thanksgiving was about reflecting on the past – it’s one tradition that should stick. Foremost, Thanksgiving is about being with family, friends, and the ones you hold most dear. The true meaning of Thanksgiving is taking stock of what has happened in your year (and yes, this one was a doozy) and being grateful for what you have.

To inspire a little Thanksgiving spirit, let’s take a look back at some episodes that shared little moments of thanks, community, and remembrance.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

A classic tale of holiday celebration is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Charlie Brown gets into another pickle when Peppermint Patty invites herself and the gang over to the Brown residence for a Thanksgiving feast. The only problem is all Charlie Brown can cook is toast. After Peppermint Patty gets angry that there’s not a cranberry in sight, Marcy steps in to remind both Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown that Thanksgiving isn’t about the food but the people. Marcy’s wise words are: “We should just be thankful for being together.”

Recess, “The Great Can Drive”

When the whole class gears up for the annual Thanksgiving canned food drive, T.J., Vince, Gretchen, and Spinelli get competitive. The friends try to raise more canned food for the drive than the class with The Ashleys. However, Mikey’s hope for the food drive is to help those in need. And he let’s his friends know that the drive’s true purpose is “about helping people and being generous and sharing [their] bounty.” In the end, the gang and The Ashleys are inspired to end their competition to work together to raise cans. 

Gossip Girl, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!” 

Gossip Girl is laden with dramatic plot points, and this episode is no different. But between the drama of the story are glimpses of the characters leaning on their friends and family as they struggle with their individual trials. Blair, Serena, and Nate have to deal with the fact their families are broken. And life has changed since they were children. Though the trio has a less than stellar Thanksgiving, they end the day at home with their families. And they enjoy the peaceful moments they still have together. 

Boy Meets World, “Turkey Day”

Cory and Shawn plan a Thanksgiving for both their families. But things get awkward as Cory’s suburban, middle-class parents clash with Shawn’s parents, who live in a trailer park. The adults cannot look past their differences, while Cory and Shawn are left disappointed by their intolerant behavior. The kids sneak away to hold their own dinner and express their thankfulness for being together despite their differences. The episode ends with Shawn receiving an A for his paper about discrimination still present in America. 

The Wild Thornberrys, “A Family Tradition” 

The Thornberry family are in the wild of Madagascar preparing for their holiday festivities. Grandma Sophie calls to invite the family over to the States for a traditional holiday. But Nigel and Marianne decline as they must remain in Madagascar until they capture footage of a fossa. Debbie is upset she can’t go home for Thanksgiving. And so her parents reluctantly agree to let their girls spend the day apart. As Eliza and Debbie prepare to leave, they discover they can’t imagine a Thanksgiving separated from their parents. And they return to the wild to spend the holiday as a family. 

We can’t wait to have our fill of the turkey, the pumpkin pie, the stuffing, and the cranberry sauce! But more importantly – especially in a year as challenging as this one – we need to set aside the time to look back at what we went through and practice thanksgiving. 

Learn more about the origins of Thanksgiving and the complicated and nuanced history of Native Americans in colonized America. Here are a few resources: