With everything that has happened, Thanksgiving just hits differently this year, doesn’t it? In a couple of different ways, too.
A lot of people this year are learning that the history behind Thanksgiving is not exactly what we learned in school. I’ve known this for awhile, just like how I’ve known that Christopher Columbus is not the “hero” we learned about.
The First Thanksgiving
What we learned was that the Pilgrims on the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod and sat down for a large feast with the Native Americans where they laughed, created friendships, and gave thanks. The End.
I believed that story when I was younger. As I’ve grown up and learned more about history, I’ve realized many events in history are not all sunshine and daisies, including Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 between “Pilgrims” of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag tribe. As it turns out, the Wampanoag people were most likely not even invited to the celebration. They happened to be there because their leader Ousamequin sent them in response to gun shots that were heard. These gunshots were just apart of the celebration, because what crazy person doesn’t shoot bullets into the air to celebrate?
The first encounter between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people wasn’t peaceful. In fact, the Pilgrims stole from the tribe. The only reason an alliance was formed later on between the two groups was for the sake of survival, and nothing else. Nothing about this was peaceful, contrary to what we learned in school.
After the first harvest, there were tons of deadly conflicts between colonizers and Native people. Then the Thanksgiving “celebrations” after the very first one often marked barbarous victories over Native people by colonizers.
Why I Bring Up History
Why not? We need to stop living in a bubble of ignorant bliss and realize the TRUE history behind Thanksgiving. It is NOT unpatriotic to discuss the true history of our nation; just like how it’s not unpatriotic to acknowledge our shortcomings.
I’m not saying to boycott the holiday, but it is important to be aware so we can adjust certain traditions that are actually really insensitive; like acting out the first Thanksgiving, for example. I’m actually shocked to hear that some people still dress up as Pilgrims and Native people, and sit down at a long table to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
Here in the United States, we all come from different cultures and we need to recognize that our own culture is not the most important one or the only one that is relevant.
There are things we can do to DO and BE better. The first being to end the tradition of dressing up like Pilgrims and Native Americans, if you haven’t stopped doing that already (seriously, I’m still shocked that people do this???).
One of the sources that I used for this post has a list of things we can do. To highlight a few, we can learn how to speak about Native people in a respectful way, learn and teach the true history, and to acknowledge whose land we are living on. These are just a few things on this list.
I actually went and looked up whose land I live on currently; according to Native-Land.ca, I am on the land of the Seminole, Taino, and Tequesta tribes. Click this link to type in your own zip code or city to learn about whose land you’re on.
Thanksgiving in a Global Pandemic
Not only have many people learned the truth about Thanksgiving this year, but we are also in the middle of a global pandemic. A lot of people have decided to ignore medical professional and scientists’ pleas to stay at home and only celebrate Thanksgiving with members of their own household.
I’m not here to talk down on people who are traveling for Thanksgiving. Would I travel right now? No, absolutely not. My health and safety, as well as other people’s health and safety is way too important to me. I pray that people’s decisions right now do not have a huge affect on society as we sprint towards Christmas and New Years… but I’m not holding my breath.
We’ve been in this pandemic for nine months now. Nothing surprises me anymore.
What the Balseraks Are Doing This Year
Honestly, we don’t go crazy for Thanksgiving. Since getting married, we’ve spent most of our Thanksgivings away from family. In 2015, I was on active duty and had to work. In 2016, I think we spent it with family friends. In 2017, we had a Friendsgiving because we were living in Texas, as Michael was in pilot training at that time. 2018 was when we spent Thanksgiving with my mom’s family because we were pretty sure it would be my Papa’s last Thanksgiving (and it was).
Last year, we spent Thanksgiving by ourselves because I wasn’t mentally ready to be around people for the holiday.
This year is no different; we will be spending it alone! I’m learning to be okay with that. We’ve spent a lot of holidays with just the two of us.
Our Thanksgiving consists of sleeping in, something yummy for breakfast, watching the parade and some football games, relaxing, and then making dinner.
It’s a family tradition to say what we are thankful for. This is not a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving (meaning the false one that we learned about in school); it’s simply something my Papa loved to do. It was rare to have the entire family around one table and the holiday season in my family is a season of gratitude and giving. So we always take time to be thankful for at least one thing before we dig into our food.
This Year, I am Thankful For…
I am thankful for surviving.
There are so many people on my newsfeed and timelines that are preaching to be positive and look on the bright side. To be thankful for the little things that have happened this year.
Well, anyone who knows me, knows that I am a realist before I am a pessimist or optimist. Life is not always sunshine and daisies; just like it isn’t always thunderclouds and downpours.
I can honestly say that one really good thing has happened to me this year, and that is getting my coaching job at OrangeTheory Fitness. Still, I won’t lie, the pandemic has been really tough on our studio and there have been so many moments when I’ve felt like my job wasn’t secure or safe.
I’m thankful that my husband is considered essential and therefore we still have an income. There are so many people worse off than us. I’ve seen the lines for food distribution in my area, and it breaks my heart.
People are hurting in so many different ways this year, and I am not about to tell them to be positive or be thankful for the little things.
I’m just thankful that we have survived 2020, or at least most of it. That I’ve stayed healthy. That we still have food and a home.
On this Thanksgiving, I really do hope you have at least one thing to be thankful for. I hope you have someone to spend Thanksgiving with.
Above all, I hope you know that dark times do not last forever. You have survived 100% of your worst days so far. We are looking at great odds here so let’s keep going… together.