To be completely honest, when I was a kid, I enjoyed Thanksgiving. To young me, Thanksgiving was a time to spend time with family, eat great food and appreciate the presence of loved ones. However, as the years passed and I became older and understood a lot more about my family history and the history of the holiday, the third Thursday of November took a slightly new meaning. How could we celebrate a holiday with such an awful background?
I asked my Dad the same question as we were making food for Thanksgiving dinner, and his response has stuck with me ever since. Thanksgiving has an awful and horrendous history of colonization, beyond anything we could comprehend, and it’s important to acknowledge this, but we don’t gather on Thanksgiving to celebrate the country or how it began. We gather on Thanksgiving to celebrate each other.
It’s important to note there is an element of privilege to this ideology — I have the privilege to look back on this holiday and this history and celebrate the people around me. I believe the intention behind how you celebrate is important. Taking something away from oppressors or Thanksgiving’s awful meaning and redefining it, as a celebration of perseverance, is just as impactful as it is important.
So, what does this celebration of each other look like? It looks like a blend of Mexican and American culture on the dinner table, with tamales and chile relleno on one side and stuffing and mashed potatoes on the other. It looks like late-night talks and conversations about how our lives have grown in the past year after dessert and a moment of silence to appreciate being a family before dinner. This celebration of thankfulness for each other lies in hugs and laughter, phone calls to relatives who couldn’t make the trip and joking in the kitchen about who brought the best Thanksgiving dish.
Thanksgiving has a dark history — one that affects many people around the nation — and it’s vital to acknowledge this reality in any form of Thanksgiving you celebrate. However, it’s also important to transform tools used for oppression into tools of celebration.