Point/Counterpoint: Rethinking Thanksgiving

Maria Comerford, Co-Photography Editor, Sophmore

In most American households, Thanksgiving is a day about showing appreciation and love to family and friends, while enjoying a traditional holiday feast. However, there are others who believe that this perception of Thanksgiving is misguided because of the gruesome history around which Thanksgiving was established. Often, the relationship between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in the 15th century is portrayed to the American public as a friendly and respectful one, though we know that this is the stuff of legends, and the truth is significantly more violent. Even so, while Americans often use the story of the first Thanksgiving as the reason for the celebration, this is not the actual purpose of this holiday. Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude for family, friends and good fortune, and helping those who are less fortunate. So, one may ask, does it matter why we recognize gratitude and appreciation, as long as we actually do recognize the need to acknowledge it?

Though the history around which Thanksgiving was developed may not be moral, the spirit that developed this holiday is the true reason for celebration. The Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down to a harvest meal is really just a metaphor for unity, and the importance of thanking those who have assisted us. This is still a concept that bears reinforcement today. Sadly, over time, many Americans have lost the ability to appreciate all the things they have. The nuclear family has split apart, resulting in long distance relationships between loved ones who once all lived within the same community. According to an article published in the New York Times, the nation’s birthrate as of 2013 was half what it was in 1960, due to the tendency of people in the 21st century to become functionally independent and move away from their families. America should continue to celebrate Thanksgiving because it provides an opportunity for people to get together and reconnect through the preparation of meals and holiday festivities. Thanksgiving is important because it brings people closer together, and keeps family values strong.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday since every family has their own traditions. For example, some families participate in flag football games or gather around the TV to watch the NFL games. Traditions like these that evolved around Thanksgiving help bring family back together. Since the American people are separating themselves from their family and their traditions, people often need to be reminded of the importance of spending time together.

Thanksgiving also motivates people to go out and donate their time to those in need. According to newyorkcares.org, holidays are the most common time to volunteer. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be times of happiness for everyone, but not all people have the ability to make their holidays enjoyable. Therefore, people donate their time in order to make holidays such as Thanksgiving a happy time for those who have less opportunity, and try to make other’s holidays just as special as their own. This ensures that more people will be able to see the holidays as a pleasurable time.

Some choose to believe that since Thanksgiving was established around negative history, Americans should give up on Thanksgiving altogether. However, Thanksgiving is no more a celebration of a fictional “happy meal” between Native Americans and Pilgrims than Christmas is a holiday commemorating reindeer with noses that glow in the dark. Holidays have far deeper meaning than the silly connotations we have given them. They are about making sure loved ones stay connected and giving time and attention to those who need it. The “history” of Thanksgiving is merely a foundation for a holiday that has a much more valuable meaning. For this reason, America should keep celebrating Thanksgiving the way it is. So, next time someone tries to argue that Thanksgiving is a holiday that advocates the European settler’s discrimination of Native Americans, remind them of its true meaning: to bring family and friends closer together through celebration and tradition