What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

By Ume Sarfaraz

Norman Rockwell painted “Freedom From Want,” what many Americans considered a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass.

From a young age Americans are taught about the origin of Thanksgiving, how the Puritans and the Native Americans came together for a feast and gave thanks for the food they were about to receive.

According to National Geographic Kids, the Puritans came to America in 1620, and, while searching for food, they met the Native Americans, who taught the Puritans how to hunt and grow crops. At the end of the harvest season, the Native Americans invited the Puritans to their harvest celebration.

Over time, Thanksgiving become a holiday for being thankful and getting the family together.
However, in recent years, there’s been more evidence to suggest Thanksgiving isn’t the Norman Rockwell holiday Americans were once taught.

In fact according to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, the Puritans became more violent towards Native Americans over time. The Puritans were suspected to have killed Wamsutta, a Native American chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Soon after Wamsutta’s death, his brother Metacom, also known as Phillip, was named chief.

Metacom was able to maintain peace for many years until, “hostility eventually developed over the steady succession of land sales forced on the Native Americans by their growing dependence on English goods,” according to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.

“It’s all about spending time and being blessed with friends and family.”

– Stephanie Moriarty

After taking control of the land and enslaving Native Americans, the Puritans began to form alliances with other tribes they thought were stronger.

Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia explains how the long, violent, war between the two groups came to an end with the death of Metacom, who was beheaded and dismembered. His head was then displayed on a pole at Plymouth. The war, which eventually became known as King Phillip’s War, resulted in virtual extermination of tribal Native American life and allowed the Puritans to claim the land for settlement.

While the dark history surrounding the first Thanksgiving may have been buried, the holiday’s meaning has evolved over time for individuals of all races and religions.

“People are not aware of the holiday’s true history,” said DCCC psychology student Emily Masuda, 20. “They need to teach more of the truth from the start.”

Masuda said she didn’t know about the holiday’s origin until she came to college. Once she found out the truth, she was horrified.

Today, Thanksgiving continues to be celebrated by a diverse America. Photo by WTKR-TV

In her family, they don’t have a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal; in fact, Masuda recalls having shrimp instead of turkey one year.

Nursing major Molly Berman, 22, said the holiday makes her uncomfortable because of its dark history. Berman mentioned her mom tends to be excited about the holiday, but her father doesn’t care for it.

Berman’s paternal grandmother was a victim of the Holocaust, so it makes it harder to support a holiday cleansing such a violent past towards minorities, she said.

“It’s all about spending time and being blessed with friends and family,” said Campus Life assistant Stephanie Moriarty. Watching the parade balloons being blown up the night before in New York City is one of the traditions Moriarty’s family tries to do every year.

Missy Dougherty, athletic assistant at DCCC, recalls her dinner table every year looking very traditional with turkey, green beans and sweet potatoes.

“Watching the parade first is a tradition in my house,” Dougherty said. “We don’t do anything until the parade is over.”

The annual Thanksgiving Macy’s Day Parade kicks off the Christmas season in New York City.
(Photo courtesy of Tripsavvy/Pixabay)

Business administration major Rania Naimi, 19, who has only been in the United States for a year, fondly remembered her first Thanksgiving when she was invited to a friend’s house. She was welcomed with open arms and recalls the family being very helpful as they explained their traditions to her.

“They had a traditional spread of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and other sides,” Naimi said.
Naimi is Muslim, so she could only eat the turkey and sides, but she remembered the table looking very traditional. Before coming to America, Naimi had never heard about Thanksgiving, but after attending a dinner and learning more about the holiday, she believes it does stand for inclusion and being thankful

“I think Thanksgiving is a nice holiday for giving back and spending time with your family,” Naimi said.

Contact Ume Sarfaraz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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