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Thanksgiving 2022: History and significance of the holiday

Thanksgiving: The favourite American holiday has a complicated history.

November 24, 2022 / 11:30 AM IST

On November 24, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by getting together with family and friends to enjoy elaborate meals of roast turkeys and mashed potatoes.

The holiday dates back 400 years and has a complicated history. Largely, it is spoken of as a day where the Native Americans and the Europeans feasted together in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Dominant accounts however leave out the painful history associated with the day: that the ties between the Natives and the Europeans fell apart quickly and the Europeans began grabbing their land. This led to a war in which as much as 40 percent of the Wampanoag tribe died, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Over time, there have been calls to re-think ways in which Thanksgiving is marked and its history taught to children.

University of Texas professor Robert Jensen had once suggested that Thanksgiving be replaced with a “National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting”, The Independent reported.

Author David Silverman told the Smithsonian magazine that glossed-over narratives damage how native Americans feel as part of the US.

"It makes white Americans a lot less reflective about where their privilege comes from, and it makes us a lot less critical as a country," he added.

For the Native American community, Thanksgiving is a solemn day instead of an occasion for expressing gratitude.

They gather in Plymouth, Massachusetts for prayers and speeches to remember Indigenous people who were killed by colonists.

Others are departing from the conventional celebrations by preparing meals honouring their traditions.

“We do not necessarily celebrate the westernized, local Thanksgiving of Natives coming together with Pilgrims,” a teacher based in Utah told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We hold ceremonies and open that day with healing and for us to reconnect with each other as family.”

first published: Nov 24, 2022 11:27 am