What To Celebrate Instead Of Thanksgiving, If You’re Uncomfortable With The Holiday’s History
In elementary school, I was taught that Thanksgiving was a beautiful moment in our country’s history. Friendly white people sailed over on the Mayflower and befriended the Natives who taught them how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups celebrated their new friendship with a three-day feast that included turkeys, corn, and potatoes, and they all lived in harmony for years to come. It was a great story, filled with struggle and triumph. Unfortunately, that's just a myth.
Actually, the first Thanksgiving was likely a celebratory dinner following what's now known as the Pequot Massacre. After killing over 700 men, women, and children of the Pequot Tribe, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony reportedly said, “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.” It was later signed into law that, “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.” So, understandably, there are some people who choose not to observe Thanksgiving, given that it perpetuates this myth. If you're not OK with erasing this ugly part of America's history and choose not to observe Thanksgiving, there are other ways to spend the day. Check out these alternatives.
1. National Day of Mourning
The National Day of Mourning is an annual protest held on Thanksgiving Day. Protesters acknowledge the historical and current suffering of Native American people. The protest is held in Plymouth, Massachusetts. If you can't make it to the physical protests, you can still stand in solidarity by teaching others about Native American history.
2. Unthanksgiving Day
Also known as the The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, Unthanksgiving Day happens each year on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Participants honor indigenous peoples and promote their civil rights. Unthanksgiving Day is currently only in San Francisco, but consider creating your own Unthanksgiving Day in your city if you can't make it out to the Bay.
3. National Day of Listening
National Day of Listening falls on the same day as Thanksgiving this year. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, you can broaden your perspective by listening to someone who is a member of a marginalized group.
4. Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month. Instead of celebrating revisionist history on Thanksgiving, visit a museum or library to learn about Native American history and culture.
5. Restorative Justice Week
What happened to Native Americans when colonizers “discovered” America was a gross injustice. Restorative Justice Week will be observed Nov. 19-26 this year in Canada, but you can easily learn about restorative justice from home. Restorative justice is a philosophy that rethinks crime and seeks to find ways to resolve the harm done by crime. Learn more about how to reduce harm in families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces this November.
6. National Family Week
Many people enjoy Thanksgiving because they get to spend time with family. National Family Week is Nov. 19-25. National Family Week is all the positive aspects of Thanksgiving and none of the negative. Break out the photo album and home videos and enjoy the much needed quality time.
7. National Game and Puzzle Week
The holidays are really about having fun with loved ones. Pretend likes its the ‘90s and play Monopoly and Uno this National Game and Puzzle Week (Nov. 19-25).
8. National Farm-City Week
Farmers grow a lot of the food you consume, but do you know how they do it? Visit a local farm to chat with a farmer Nov. 17-23 during National Farm-City Week.
There are plenty of holidays and events to observe this November that don't have ugly histories the way Thanksgiving does. It might be time to start a new tradition.
Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version.