I read with some interest an article titled “Why some Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving,” by Chelsea Ritschel. She writes, “For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a special beloved holiday for eating turkey and spending time with family and friends. However, for others, the celebration is deeply controversial as Thanksgiving has a contentious history.”
“Like Columbus Day, the holiday is viewed by many to be a celebration of the conquest of Native Americans by colonists or an embellished narrative of ‘Pilgrims and Natives looking past their differences’ to break bread.”
I did not know that either of these holidays were “viewed by many to be a celebration of the conquest of Native Americans by colonists.”
A professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Robert Jensen, has said, “One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.”
I agree with Professor Jensen that a National Day of Atonement is in order, but not to replace Thanksgiving Day or because something happened two hundred years ago that neither my ancestors (as far as I know), nor I had anything to do with. If Americans want to see “moral progress” we need to repent of our sexual immoralities and the practice of abortion for starters.
Ritschel further claims, “Young children are taught about Thanksgiving in school, where they often learn of the first feast through crafts and drawings. In addition to depictions of turkeys, the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, many children decorate Native American headdresses which frequently bare no resemblance to the headdresses, clothes and feathers worn by the Wampanoag Indians. These inaccurate historical references are … making the battle for equality and accurate representation an ongoing one for Native Americans.”
I did not know that the battle of the Wampanoag Indians for “equality and accurate representation” hinged on the drawings of “young children.” I wonder if the children’s drawings accurately depicted the “turkeys, the Mayflower and the Pilgrims” also.
The narrative I am familiar with is about some English colonists called Pilgrims coming to the New World in search of religious freedom. They landed in the dead of winter and during the following year many died. With the help of some Native Americans, now identified as the Wampanoag, they survived.
Having harvested a bountiful crop, they celebrated offering thanksgiving to God. Those Native Americans who helped them survive were invited to celebrate with them. That’s the Thanksgiving account I was taught and remember, if there are errors I am not aware of them.
But for me it is not whether what happened 400 years ago is historically accurate. My focus during Thanksgiving is being thankful for God’s gracious providence, because it is never a bad time to be thankful to God.
“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God,” Psalm 50:23.
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